A chest full of white feathers

The Burchell’s Coucal is a fierce and awesome bird. When this individual locked eyes with me in the Pilansberg I had the sense of a great personage looking down on my endeavours.


The Burchell’s Coucal tends to skulk in the undergrowth and is a ground nester, so its call is known to more people than the bird itself. They live successfully in lush urban gardens where they will fiercely attack and eat anything from lizards to small birds, yet in turn they are hunted by our pets and even small sausage dogs have been known to terrorise them. They are happy close to water and are known as “Vleiloeries” in Afrikaans. When they are seen clearly perched in a high spot such as in these photographs, legend has it that rain is on the way, giving it the nickname of the Rainbird. Having such a strong energetic presence it is not surprising that they crop up in folklore and literature as well, one example being the poem “The Rainbird”, by Douglas Livingstone.

“The Rainbird” by Douglas Livingstone

One day you turned to me and said “goodbye”,

“we’re all washed up,” and “better we should part.”

Then as my spirit jerked and bobbed afloat

I drowned in unreality to lie

upon a muddy world that leaned awry

with bubbles, weed, old boots and fishy dart.


Then from this depth I stood, absurd, remote,

and drifted out.

Beneath a filmy sky

I paused to listen to my flustered heart

and heard instead the Rainbird’s liquid note.

I surfaced, walking with a firmer tread

and joined the Rainbird in his mournful art.

But as the cricket in his plastic coat,

I gaily chirruped how my love was dead.


  1. Die Reenvoel Roep

    (Vir my Pa))

    Die twee reenvoels se roep

    drup drup soos water teen die boomstam af

    en vorm ‘n dam van reenroep sang.

    Deur die skadutakke loer ek na die hemelblou

    en luister in verwonderding na die natuur ritueel

    waarin die wolke die hemel stadig toe vou.

    Die oomblik ‘n komplekse skouspel

    en my hele wese glimlag van genot.



  2. I have never heard or seen this bird before! Thank you for sharing this post, I learned something new today:) feel free to check out some of my recent post and let me know what you think!


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