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Channel-billed cuckoo

Channel-billed cuckoo. Photo: Queensland Government.

Channel-billed cuckoo. Photo: Queensland Government.

Common name: Channel-billed cuckoo

Scientific name: Scythrops novaehollandiae

Family: Cuculidae (parasitic cuckoos and coucals)

Conservation status: This species is listed as Least concern in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992). It is ranked as a low priority under the department's Back on Track species prioritisation framework.


The channel-billed cuckoo is a distinctive looking bird because of its large size, pale colouring, and toucan-like bill. They are the largest of all parasitic birds, growing up to 67cm and with wingspans close to one metre wide.

Habitat and distribution

A summer visitor from Indonesia and New Guinea, the channel-billed cuckoo arrives in northern and eastern Australia around August-September, and departs around March-April.

Shy birds, channel-billed cuckoos roost and feed high in the treetops.

Life history and behaviour

You're lying in your tent, drifting off to sleep, when the bush erupts with a raucous call, rising to a very loud shout! No, it's not the campers next door, it's the channel-billed cuckoo, well hidden until it utters its startling call (MP3 audio file, 109K)†, either perched on a branch or flying past your tent.

Like most cuckoos, they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds (e.g. currawongs, magpies, crows), which then raise the cuckoo chicks.

Channel-billed cuckoos feed mainly on fruit, but also eat insects, and have been reported to feed on the eggs and nestlings of other birds.

† Requires an appropriate media player

Last reviewed
25 May 2016
Last updated
18 April 2011