Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Eastern Koel (Eudynamys orientalis)


French: Coucou bleuté German: Pazifischer Koel Spanish: Koel oriental

Cuculus orientalis


, 1766,



The case for splitting the form melanorhynchus (Sulawesi and adjacent islands) from E. scolopaceus was made in the 1980s#R, the diagnostic characters being repeated in 2012#R without triggering species status. However, two further points of distinction in all NHMUK specimens of melanorhynchus vs scolopaceus (and its representatives through to the Philippines and Greater Sundas) are that (1) tailbars of female melanorhynchus are denser and more evenly spaced, and number of dark bars on central rectrices is 17 vs 14, and (2) females have orange-buffy underparts with narrow black bars (with or without black smudges from chin to breast) vs underparts buffy white with coarse black streaking and spotting on chin to upper breast and denser, coarser and less organized black barring from lower breast to belly. The situation E of Sulawesi, however, is less clear-cut: all taxa E of Sulawesi also have glossy blue-violet plumage in male, a black bill in one or other sex, underparts with widely spaced narrow black bars on orange-buffy underparts, and tail-barring of female denser and more even (several counts of 17 on different specimens); moreover, these taxa all seem different in choice of host (being less tied—if at all so—to corvids). Thus, the distinction between Sulawesi birds and birds from Moluccas and Lesser Sundas E to Pacific is far from clear, so that here all taxa from Sulawesi E are separated from E. scolopaceus as one species, E. orientalis, on basis of latter’s violet-blue vs violet-green plumage in male (ns[1]); lightly dark-barred orange-buff underparts vs coarsely streaked, spotted and barred buffy-white underparts in female (3); more densely, evenly and numerously barred tail in female (possibly in part a function of tail length; 2); black bill in one or both sexes (2); apparently differently inflected songs (melanorhynchus, however, seemingly different from other taxa grouped under orientalis) (score perhaps 1). Race facialis often synonymized with melanorhynchus. Proposed race everettii synonymized with picatus. Twelve subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. o. melanorhynchus S. Müller, 1843 – Black-billed Koel – Sulawesi.
  • E. o. facialis Wallace, 1863 – Sula Is.
  • E. o. corvinus Stresemann, 1931 – N Moluccas (Morotai, Halmahera, Ternate, Tidore, Moti, Bacan).
  • E. o. orientalis (Linnaeus, 1766) – Pacific Koel – C Moluccas (Buru, Manipa, Kelang, Tujuh, Seram, Ambon, Watubela).
  • E. o. picatus S. Müller, 1843 – Lesser Sundas from Sumba to Timor and Romang, and Kai Is.
  • E. o. rufiventer (Lesson, 1830) – W Papuan Is, most of lowland New Guinea, and Aru Is.
  • E. o. minimus van Oort, 1911 – lowland SW New Guinea.
  • E. o. hybridus Diamond, 2002 – Long I and nearby smaller islands, off NE New Guinea.
  • E. o. salvadorii E. J. O. Hartert, 1900 – Bismarck Archipelago.
  • E. o. alberti Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1907 – Solomon Is.
  • E. o. subcyanocephalus Mathews, 1912 – N Australia E to W Queensland; migrant to New Guinea.
  • E. o. cyanocephalus (Latham, 1801) – Australian Koel – N Queensland to New South Wales.
  • Descriptive notes

    39–46 cm; male 175–340 g, female 167–330 g (cyanocephalus), male 133–231 g, female 191·5–244 g (melanorhynchus), male 135–295 g, 169–290 g (... read more


    Loud and noisy; calls early, starting before dawn. Some regional variation in vocalizations.... read more


    Inhabits similar habitats to those used by E. scolopaceus, though is perhaps more... read more

    Food and feeding

    Few, if any known differences in diet and foraging behaviour of adults of this species and E. scolopaceus (which see), although... read more


    In Australia, breeds Oct–Feb in Queensland, Nov–Feb in Kimberley Division, Dec–Feb in Northern Territory; seasonality data from elsewhere... read more


    Resident or makes irregular movements, but Australian populations migratory, arriving in N in Aug–... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally reasonably common and widespread in Australia, very common (at least locally) on Sulawesi (and recently recorded on offshore Buton I),... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Eastern Koel (Eudynamys orientalis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).