The Whoop Whoop Bird of the Escarpment: The Pheasant Coucal

Pheasant CoucalShe might look like a big chicken (maybe a Rhode Island Red), but the Pheasant Coucal is a fascinating bird that does something quite different to other cuckoos.

The Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus) is unlike other cuckoos in two ways:

1. They make their nest on the ground.
2. They make their own nest, care for their own eggs and raise their own young.

Other cuckoos don’t make their own nests. They, instead, lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. By the time the young cuckoos are born, the non-cuckoo mum thinks the young baby cuckoo is hers and rears them as her own.


Pheasant Coucal plumage is a beautiful red-brown colour, with dramatic black and red wings with white stripes; they look distinctive even when unextended. Their very long black and white tail, making up the rest of their 50cm to 70 cm frame, make them look like a pheasant.

During breeding season, Coucals’ head and neck feathers colour turn a dramatic dark brown / black colour.

Habit & habitat

The Pheasant Coucal tends to run along the ground. They can fly, but aren’t the most elegant in the air, preferring to fly-jump from tree to tree before reaching their destination.

Sclerophyll Forest with CycadsCoucals to use low-growing shrubs and dead trees to move from one place to the next. They like thicker lower shrubs for ground protection from exposure to threats.

Coucals love forests with understory vegetation, such as bracken, grasses and rushes. They go well in wet sclerophyll forests, which offer a variety of low-growing plants to help them move from one place to another and to rear their young.

Where are they found?

Pheasant Coucals can be found in northern and eastern Australia. They are also found in Western Australia’s Pilbara region and south-eastern NSW. They’re sedentary animals, meaning they stay in the place they find adequate food and shelter. Our Coucals have been nesting in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment for years, always returning to the same nesting site.

Breeding & feeding

Pheasant Coucals pair for life. The male Coucal incubates the eggs – from one to five in a single nest. Both the male and female Coucals take turns feeding their young, but the male does most of the work.

Pheasant Coucals live on lizards, frogs and insects (and sometimes small mammals).

The sound of the Pheasant CoucalPheasant Coucal

Pheasant Coucals are also called the Whoop Whoop Bird, or, to residents in the Escarpment “Whoopies”. They are called this for a very good reason; they have a very distinctive call, where they whoop several times to communicate with their partner Coucals.

The Pheasant Coucal is a beautiful ground-dwelling bird; just one of the many amazing animals of the Escarpment.

More information:

Birds in Backyards: Pheasant Coucal
BirdLife Australia: Pheasant Coucal
Graeme Chapman: Read about the Pheasant Coucal
Graeme Chapman: Hear the Pheasant Coucal

Tamborine Mountain’s green heart: Our Escarpment

The Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Protection Precinct; it’s part of who we are. It’s the Green Heart connecting disparate settlements. It makes us one community.

The Escarpment in the makingKoala With Tamborine Mountain Gorge Backdrop

In the 1980s, individuals, community groups and organisations came together to define and protect the Escarpment. Some 30 years (and more) has made the Escarpment an essential part of Tamborine Mountain culture. To develop the Escarpment took the work of many, from the Natural Heritage Trust to Tamborine Mountain Landcare and from the Beaudesert and Gold Coast Councils to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (now National Parks) and the Federal Government.

And it took the work of Tamborine Mountain Landcare and troops of enthusiastic volunteers to regenerate vegetation in parts of the Escarpment, repair and further extend other parts.

What’s so special about the Escarpment?Tamborine Mountain Escarpment

In the 1900s, some 90 per cent of the Mountain’s natural vegetation was clear-felled under law. Despite this, much of the area where the Escarpment exists remained forested.

The Escarpment provides a beautiful green backdrop to the Scenic Rim, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Ever been to St Bernards Hotel and looked at the view? That’s part of the Escarpment.

It’s unique in terms of natural offerings – geologically sensitive sites, water catchments, such as the ecologically sensitive Guanaba Creek, and remnant forests and rainforests.

And it’s home to species recognised at a state, national and global level, from the Albert’s Lyrebird to the Koala and from the Pearson’s Green Treefrog to the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (to name a few).

“… the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment supports more than 80% of all native terrestrial fauna species … and 61% of flora known to occur in the Gold Coast region.” Ref. Tamborine Mountain Escarpment Flora and Fauna Report; Chenoweth.

Our unique Tamborine Mountain … why we love it

So why do people visit Tamborine Mountain? Why do people come to live here? And why do businesses set up here?

Because the Mountain offers unique green spaces, National Parks, low-key tourism, peaceful calm, charming and caring personal service, amazing flora and fauna and much, much more.

“… the Tamborine Mountain escarpment forests will be recognised as the main reason that tourists come to visit, that increasing numbers of people are choosing to reside on the Mountain and that rural industries are able to enjoy the relative security of soil protection, wind protection and the protection afforded by a large resident insectivorous bird population.” Ref. Chenoweth.

After all, Tamborine Mountain celebrates its green spaces. Government declared Queensland’s first National Park on Tamborine Mountain and since this declaration, the Mountain has become home to some 17 sections of National Park.

The escarpment will be recognised as a valuable resource of significance to southeast Queensland in particular, and a valuable adjunct to the World Heritage forests of Lamington and Border Ranges National Parks.” Ref. Chenoweth.

Why protect the Escarpment?Tamborine Mountain Forest Floor

1. The need to protect endangered, threatened and vulnerable species.
2. The need to protect sensitive ecological areas.
3. The need to protect water catchments.
4. The need to protect ground water sources.
5. The need to protect the scenic values.
6. The need to protect the current tourism on the Mountain.
7. The need to protect the community who live within the Escarpment.

“The core area for survival of the Mountain’s natural world must remain the protected areas, and the key to their survival is learning and teaching others respect for the natural world, rather than the potential for its exploitation. Meredith McKinney, who lived on the Mountain as a child with her mother, poet and environmentalist Judith Wright.

The Escarpment – our Mountain’s Green Heart – an important and significant place for Tamborine Mountain, for the Scenic Rim, for South East Queensland, for Australia and for the world.

Magical birds of the Escarpment

There are some amazing birds of Guanaba Forest in the Tamborine Mountain Escarpment, some vulnerable, threatened and endangered.

A place of many different forest types, the Escarpment provides an array of habitat for a variety of bird species as well as other significant fauna within the South East Queensland region.

Some of the bird species in the Escarpment face regional population decline, while some face national population decline. Recognition of the need to protect their habitat to secure their numbers is needed. Turning recognition into action is vital.

Here are some of the bird species facing population decline living within the Escarpment.

Grey Goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae)Grey Goshawk

1. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Grey Goshawk is a medium-sized raptor who comes in two different colour morphs.

They’re found in coastal areas in Australia’s northern and eastern spaces. The grey morph is more commonly found along the east coast in thick, sub-tropical forests.

Glossy Black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami)

1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.
2. Federal species status: Endangered.
3. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Glossy Black-Cockatoo is the smallest of the 5 black cockatoos. Its colours are brown-black head and body, with red or orange in their tail.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos love Allocasuarina, relying on the fruit of this tree for food. They also nest and breed in tree hollows.

Land clearance has affected their habitat, which threatens the numbers of this beautiful bird.

Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

1. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
2. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Black-necked Stork (also called the Jabiru) is the only stork found in Australia. They have black and white plumage, a glossy dark green and purple neck and black bill … a very distinctive bird.

The Jabiru is found in wetlands, swamps, water pools and more permanent bodies of water.

Albert’s Lyrebird (Menura alberti)Albert's Lyrebird

1. Queensland species status: Near-threatened.
2. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
3. IUCN report: Decreasing.

The Albert’s Lyrebird is the smaller of the two Lyrebirds (the other being the Superb Lyrebird).

They’re found in a very small area of sub-tropical rainforest near the NSW and Queensland state border.

They don’t have the vocal range of the Superb Lyrebird, but their songs are still quite beautiful and recognisable.

Plumed Frogmouth (Podargus ocellatus plumiferus)

1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.

The Plumed Frogmouth is found in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

They live in sub-topical and moist lowland and mountain forests.

They’re considered a difficult bird to study because of their elusive nature. Numbers are threatened by land clearing, timber harvesting and fire.

Black-breasted Button-quail (Turnix melanogaster)Black Breasted Button Quail

1. Queensland species status: Vulnerable.
2. IUCN species status: Near-threatened.
3. IUCN report: Population decreasing.

The Black-breasted Button-quail is a rare Button-quail found only in Australia. It is not a true quail.

This little ground dweller is found in areas that see rainfall of between 770 and 1200 mm per year. Fragmentation of habitat has impacted seriously on their numbers.

Protecting the habitat of these amazing Australian birds is vital to their future.

More information:

Australian bird species reference: Birds in Backyards

Australia’s birds: Birdlife Australia

IUCN Threatened Species List: IUCN Red List

Search lists:

Department of Environment: Species Profile and Threats Database

Queensland Government: Species profile search