Bubut Kecil, But-but (Malay)
Coucals feed on
large insects, frogs, lizards, snakes. They hunt these among the undergrowth,
using their powerful bills to catch and kill their prey.
Coucals are rather terrestrial, preferring to walk than fly. They
emerge in the open only in the early morning. The rest of the day,
they forage on foot in tall grass. When disturbed, they make a short
flight with shallow wing beats and brief glides into cover. They then
scuttle away on foot. They are strong runners and have straight hind
claws and are sometimes called "lark-heeled cuckoos".
Lesser Coucals are mostly solitary, only rarely seen in pairs. They
specialise in more open grasslands (lallang and other tall grasses)
both dry and marshy, while the Greater Coucals (C. sinensis)
are found in thickets.
Breeding: Lesser Coucals have
a courtship ritual of offering each other titbits like a leaf or grasshopper.
Although they are members of the cuckoo family, Lesser Coucals do
not lay their eggs in other birds' nests.
They build their own nests. These are usually well concealed and comprise
a large globe (18 x 25cm) made of twigs or grass (blades and stems)
with a large entrance hole to one side. The nest is sometimes lined
with green leaves and grass.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Medium (38cm); black plumage;
wings and back chestnut; eyes red, bill and feet black.
adult: Nape and upper back pale buff streaking.
Morten Strange and
and non-breeding adult: head, neck and mantle brown
streaked with pale buff; rump and upper tail coverts,
blackish barred rufous; tail dark brown glossed with green;
underparts buffy with paler streaks.
Call: Described as a series
of mellow whoops; 3-4 hiccups followed by knocking rattles;
sharp 3-note call that sounds like got-to-go; or
boot-boot-boot, like their Malay name.
In flight: Low, rapid shallow
flapping with long spurts of gliding, seldom raising their
wings above the horizontal.
Similar birds: Greater Coucal
(C. sinensis): The Lesser is smaller, somewhat
paler and has chestnut wing-linings, while the Greater
has black wing-linings. Unlike the Greater, when in the
breeding the Lesser has pale buff streaking on nape and
upper back and appears more streaky and scruffy because
the Lesser has very glossy head feather shafts which reflect
the light and make them appear almost white.
Status in Singapore: Common
resident throughout the island and North offshore islands.
World distribution: India to East Indonesia.
Classification: Family Centropodidae.
World 30 species, Singapore 2 species. Order Cuculiformes
and threats: Lesser Coucals have adapted well to open grasslands
and secondary growths that result from human interference. They are often
the first to colonise a new patch of lallang and other wastelands. They
are not considered at risk in Singapore. In fact, they have become among
the most common of the cuckoo family in Singapore.
They build in open grasslands, close to the ground, incorporating
tall grass stems into the nest. Less frequently, low in bushes or
2-3 white eggs are laid in December-July. Hatchlings are black skinned
with long bristly down. Like other Coucals, when disturbed, the chicks
squirt out copious amounts of foul-smelling liquid faeces.
The Coucals have the head and bill of a crow, but long tail feathers
of a pheasant. In fact, in the past, they were known as crow-pheasants.
local folktale explains why the
Argus Pheasant is so beautifully marked
while the Coucal is so plain.
One day, both birds met and decided
to help each other disguise themselves
from their enemies with tattoos. The Coucal diligently marked the
Argus with fine and beautiful tattoos, but when it came to the Argus'
turn, it was too lazy and simply poured the tattoo ink over the
Coucal and ran away!!
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 159: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- Morten Strange,
"Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus
Editions, 2000 (p. 30: habits, habitat, photo).
- David R Wells,
"The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)",
Academic Press, 1999 (p. 408-409: identification, distribution map,
habits, habitat, migration, conservation).
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 37: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 52: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 82: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 70: about the Greater Coucal: habit, habitat).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 93: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore),
1992 (p. 9: status in Singapore).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 24: brief mention).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 35: description, habits, habitat).
- Sir John A S Bucknill
and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia",
Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 150: about the Greater Coucal;
local folktale about the Argus and the Coucal; identification, status
in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits).
- Dr. Harold G Cogger
(et. al), "Encyclopedia of Animals"; Turacos and Cuckoos
by S Marchant, Weldon Owen, 1993 (p. 360-362; habits, habitat).