Australian Bush Birds
Fan-tailed Cuckoo  -  Cacomantis flabelliformis
Fan-tailed Cuckoo
Fan-tailed Cuckoo. This adult bird shows the cinnamon-rufous breast merging into lighter under parts. Omeo, Victoria.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo juvenile
Immature Fan-tailed Cuckoo at Omeo, Victoria. This bird appears to be developing adult colouring under the tail.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis) adult males have slate-grey upper parts and head with cinnamon-rufous breast becoming lighter on the belly and rump. Wings are brownish-grey with a broad cream-white stripe underwing and white mark on front of shoulder.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo - page 2
Tail is dark blue-black with white notches on the inner feathers and white bars on the outer ones. Eye-ring is narrow and yellow, iris dark brown. Bill black or black-brown; lower mandible is browner with flesh tone to base. Feet yellowish to olive-yellow; claws dusky. Females are duller in colour, tending to greyish with faint bars on the lower belly and rump. 24 to 28 centimetres.

map map Juveniles are differently coloured with dark brown upper parts with horizontal reddish bars on the back. Breast is pale grey with darker, zig-zag bars. Face is light brown, head streaked dark brown. Bill is black-brownish with a paler orange base to lower mandible. Transition from juvenile to adult plumage can introduce variation in individual bird colouring.

Lives in lower and middle stories of rainforest, wet and dry sclerophyll forest, as well as woodlands, coastal heath and treed areas in urban areas. Distributed along the eastern half of Queensland and New South Wales, all of Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. Also all of Tasmania. There is a separate population in south-west Western Australia.

After seeing caterpillars, moths, beetles or other insects from a perch the cuckoo flies to take the prey, often returning to the same perch to eat. Elevates the tail briefly when alighting. Females are secretive, males less so but sometimes gather in small groups of two to four birds.

Fan-tailed Cuckoos in Western Australia do not move far from one season to the next, many south-eastern birds travel considerable distances northward during non-breeding months. Most Tasmanian Fan-tailed Cuckoos migrate to the mainland for winter.

Breeding takes place in August to January. No nest is built; eggs are laid in other birds' nests. Nests of about 50 other species are used, mostly dome-nests built by thornbills, scrubwrens and fairy wrens. One egg is laid; white to mauve, finely speckled, flecked and spotted all over, especially towards the larger end; oval in shape, 18-25 by 14-18 millimetres. Incubation takes 14 to 15 days and young fledge in 16 to 17 days.