The Asian koel

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A male Asian koel eats wild berries in a tree in Shenzhen Bay Park in this Feb. 15, 2021 photo.

The beautiful Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) is probably one of the most iconic resident bird species in Shenzhen. Every citizen will easily recognize the bird from its unique call, which some of us would consider a bit annoying while others think attractive. Either way, it is a sound to remember.


These birds belong to the cuckoo family and they are relatively large, measuring around 45 cm long. They show a strongly marked sexual dimorphism, meaning males look totally different from females. The males are black with an iridescent blue color while females are light brown with several streaks and spots all over their body, making them attractive to look at. Both males and females have a sharp grey beak and striking red eyes, and astonish us with their constant “ku-oo, ku-oo” calls.


A female Asian koel perches on a tree in Honghu Park in this April 18, 2021 photo.

An interesting fact about Asian koels is that they are brood parasites, meaning that they replace other species’ eggs with their own in order to be fed and raised by a substitute parent. This may sound horrific, but the truth is that this is actually an important ecological way of maintaining stability of other species’ populations, since they have certain preferences for some crow’s nests.


A male Asian koel eats a flower in a tree in Shenzhen Bay Park in this May 15, 2021 photo.

Koels are able to eat whatever the environment has to offer, but as adults they have a certain preference for fruits. 


They prefer to rest on top of trees so most of the time you can just hear them but are probably unable to see them. So remember to look up high and enjoy the unique beauty this species brings to our beloved Shenzhen.