The Cuckoo – Koel

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By Sonia Dhami

Female Koel

The true Koel, Eudynamys, are a genus of cuckoos found in South Asia, China and Southeast Asia. This species also includes birds such as the road runners. These medium sized birds are about 12” long with a wingspan of about 18” and long tails. They have a long slim body weighing approximately 50gms. They have zygodactyl feet, meaning that the two inner toes point forward and two outer ones backward. The male and female are distinct in appearance. The male is glistening black with a yellowish green bill and crimson eyes while the female is dark brown with white spots.

Asian KoelThey prefer foraging in leafy trees and are unusual among the cuckoos in being largely frugivorous (fruit eaters) as adults though they might also feed on insects, caterpillars, grasshoppers etc. They usually feed in the canopy of trees.

By nature Koel’s are brood parasites, meaning that they do not build their own nests but rather lay their eggs in the nests of other species like crows. A single egg is laid in the host nest and once hatched the chick forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest. When the chick leaves the nest it roosts in the outer branches of a tree while the parents search for food to satisfy the young ones. The young birds resemble the female, but have dark eyes.

The Koel is very vocal and makes different types of calls. The word koel is echoic in origin and the bird is a widely used symbol in Indian poetry. It has been compared with the “nightingale” due to its melodious call. In the Guru Granth Sahib, the Koel is referred to in Tukhari Chhant Mehla 1 Baramah, as a singer of divine hymns.

The rainbird cries out, "Pri-o! Beloved!", and the song-bird sings the Lord’s Bani. The soul-bride enjoys all the pleasures and merges in the Being of her Beloved. She merges into the Being of her Beloved, when she becomes pleasing to God; she is the happy, blessed soul-bride. Establishing the nine houses, and the Royal Mansion of the Tenth Gate above them, the Lord dwells in that home deep within the self. All are Yours, You are my Beloved; night and day, I celebrate Your Love.  O Nanak, the rainbird cries out, "Pri-o! Pri-o! Beloved! Beloved!" The song-bird is embellished with the Word of the Shabad. ||2| Quote
Sri Guru Granth Sahib page 1107, pada 2.

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