The Violet Lifer

It was a conscious effort to think positive thoughts as I got ready for my second attempt to twitch the Violet Cuckoo. My first attempt was no good. I read and reread the texts and messages of friends saying I was not a jinxed birder and convinced myself that I would get to see my target that morning.

I donned my brand new binoculars and silently prayed that it would give me some luck. Lucky indeed! On its first day in the field, I saw my first Violet Cuckoo through them!

Lifer!!! Male Violet Cuckoo
Not the best of photos but I got superb views!

But let me backtrack a bit...

I got to the park around 7AM and walked as fast as my socks-and-Keens would allow me. That combination is not only an awful fashion faux pas but is also slippery when brisk walking! I got to the area my friends told me the Violet Cuckoo frequents and began my wait. There were already a lot of Yellow-vented Bulbuls feeding among the trees and I was soon surrounded with bird song. The Black-naped Orioles and Olive-backed Sunbirds came out to sing and eat in the surrounding trees. A Coppersmith Barbet made a brief appearance as well as a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and a Pied Triller. I tried my best to photograph them but I was very, very rusty and couldn't focus fast enough!

It was already 7:30AM and still no cuckoo. I scanned the trees and saw something fly in! Could it be?! It was a cuckoo! A Rusty-breasted Cuckoo. It stayed long enough for a photograph but never turned its head my way.

The back view of a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo.

When it flew off, I walked over to where another birder just arrived and was photographing some birds. I met Sir Nes and found out that he was also looking for the Violet Cuckoo, although he'd already seen it there before. While we were chatting, a Common Kingfisher perched into view, sadly too far to photograph, and a pair of Philippine Coucals flew awkwardly across the lagoon. A couple of Zebra Doves also entertained us for a while.

A pair of Zebra Doves on a faaaaaaar tree.

And then it came. A small, dark bird flew in and flitted in the canopy above us... male Violet Cuckoo! I raised my spankin' new bins and took in all its wonderful details: the rich violet color, the barring pattern, the red eye ring, the bright orange bill... awesome! It flew out of view and I looked at Nes, completely dumbstruck and close to tears. I wasn't a jinxed birder. I just got a lifer!

Although it stayed high up in the canopy, I was able to get great views!

The cuckoo was still in the branches above us busy foraging for food among the clumps of leaves. It would come into view for a few seconds before returning to forage some more. It perched on an exposed branch but was backlit against the sky making for a horrible photo. And then it disappeared.

Would've been an awesome photo...

As if taking turns feeding, the Yellow-vented Bulbuls swooped in. We stayed in the area and waited for the Violet Cuckoo to come back. We were hopeful because the Rusty-breasted Cuckoo returned to the tree.

This was exactly my view... through all the leaves and branches.

We were not to be disappointed! The Violet Cuckoo came back, showing the same feeding behavior. The female Violet Cuckoo flew in for a super quick hairy caterpillar meal before flying off to the other side of the lagoon.

Here's a short video of the male Violet Cuckoo. Please watch it in HD otherwise it's all blurry! I have yet to learn to edit videos properly ;)

I said goodbye to Sir Nes and left the park at 9AM. I almost skipped towards the parking area, ecstatic with my successful twitch of an awesome bird and also with my regained confidence in birding. 


  1. Wonderful! I enjoyed reading this and the one before it. My. you even had video of the Violet Cuckoo, what a lifer! I see you have a flare for writing, keep it up. Mabuhay ka! ( I'll find time to read your other blogs, promise)

    1. Thank you po! See you birding around soon! =)