Among the resident birds in the Maldives, Asian Koel or Dhivehi koveli is a familiar bird which lives in the agricultural islands. The male is bluish-black, with a pale green bill, rich red eyes, and grey legs and feet. It is locally known as “kaalhu koveli”. The female koels are brownish above and whitish below, but is heavily striped and spotted brown on the under parts and white on the upperparts. She has an olive or green beak and red eyes. Female koels are known as “Din din koveli”. Both sexes of baby koels are in black color. Asian Koel is a large, long-tailed, cuckoo at 45 cm.
The Asian koel is a large, long-tailed, cuckoo measuring 39–46 cm (15–18 in) and weighing 190–327 g.
The upper plumage of young birds is more like that of the male and they have a black beak. They are very vocal during the breeding season (March to August in the Indian Subcontinent), with a range of different calls. The familiar song of the male is a repeated koo-Ooo. The female makes a shrill kik-kik-kik... call. Calls vary across populations.
They show a pattern of moult that differs from those of other parasitic cuckoos. The outer primaries show a transilient (alternating) ascending moult (P9-7-5-10-8-6) while the inner primaries are moulted in stepwise descending order (1-2-3-4).
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Asian Koel is a shy bird, more heard than seen. When it is quiet, not alarmed, it adopts a typical stance with long tail held downwards, hunched back, head and bill uptilted. But often hidden in dense vegetation, it is difficult to see it. It is an arboreal species.
Asian Koel, as other cuckoos, lays its eggs, usually one single egg, in the nest of other birds’ species. They often choose crows’ nest. When male finds a good crow’s nest, it utters its very loud call “ko-eeul”, in order to attract a female Koel, to come lay her egg into this nest. Young Koel may, or not, eject host’s chicks or eggs. It is raised by other parents, often crows, and initially, young Koel calls as a crow!
During courtship display period, Asian Koel is very vocal and agitated. If excited male sees a female, both initiate spectacular chases along large branches and among trees. Breeding season depends of the place where pair is living.
Asian Koel can be seen alone or in pair.
It feeds mainly in the canopy of trees. It takes fruits (mainly figs) directly from the tree.
The Asian Koel is omnivorous, consuming a variety of insects, caterpillars, eggs and small vertebrates. Adults feed mainly on fruit. They will sometimes defend fruiting trees that they forage in and chase away other frugivores. They have been noted to be especially important in the dispersal of the sandalwood tree (Santalum album) in India. Large seeded fruits are sometimes quickly regurgitated near the parent tree while small seeded fruits are ingested and are likely to be deposited at greater distances from the parent tree. They have a large gape and are capable of swallowing large fruits including the hard fruit of palms such as Arenga and Livistona. They have occasionally been known to take eggs of small birds.
They feed on the fruits of yellow oleander tree(Thevetia peruviana) which are known to be toxic to mammals.
Asian Keol does not build any nest. As other cuckoos, it is a brood parasite, and female lays her single egg in the nest chosen by the male. They often are crows’ nest.
Asian Koel’s egg is similar in colours to the crow’s eggs. It is pale greyish-green or stony coloured, speckled with reddish-brown; it is smaller than host’s eggs.
If chicks of the two species remain in the nest, Keol chick grows up faster to the detriment of the host’s chicks. It may occur that young Koel pushes the other eggs or chick out from the nest. When young Koel leaves the nest, it roosts in the outer branches of trees, begging food to its foster parents which have to search for sufficients food to satisfy this hungray young. Young Koel follows other Koels when they depart at the end of summer.
Asian Koels are a common species in almost all the islands of Maldives.
The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea scolopacea), is a protected bird in Maldives since 11th July 1999.
Being familiar birds with loud calls, references to them are common in folklore, myth and poetry. This has been interpreted as the earliest knowledge of brood parasitism. These birds were once very popular in India as cagebirds. Feeding even on boiled rice, these hardy birds lived in captivity for as long as 14 years. In various parts of the world, people associate the call of Asian Koel to the beginning of a new day.