Shibboleth, again

Bronze Cuckoo
Cute but treacherous… Bronze Cuckoo

I recently added a strange piece of information to my old post (February 2012) about Authenticity and the Shibboleth here. I began the old post with this bloodthirsty Biblical quote:

And the Gileadites took the passages of (the River) Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over (the river); that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;
Then said they unto him, Say now “Shibboleth”: and he said “Sibboleth”: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of (the River) Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand. (– Judges 12:5, 12:6)

Then I added at the foot of that old post this strange item about the defeat of the Bronze Cuckoo (Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo, Chrysococcyx [Chalcites] basalis [pictured]).

As an aside, I hate the maddening screech of the South-east Asian cuckoo, the Common Koel, a migratory species that arrives in Australia from South-east Asia to breed (and howl horribly) in spring. They make the Fever Bird sound polite and discreet. Although rarely seen, the Koel is well known to many Australians for its loud, repetitive calls, particularly in the early morning. (So says the «Australian Museum».) I also resent the fact that the Koel chicks kill off local Australian chicks, so I was pleased to see the Bronze Cuckoo done in so cleverly by a bird with a brain the size of a pea.

Later interpolation: Believe it or not, the Australian Superb Fairy Wren (I called them Blue Wrens when I was a chick) teach their unhatched chicks an individual secret shibboleth phrase while they’re still in the egg by whistling the special phrase every day for a week or so before the chicks hatch. When a Bronze Cuckoo lays her egg in the Fairy Wren’s nest, it hatches a few days later and kicks out the Fairy Wren eggs. But when the cuckoo chick hatches and calls for food, it fails to match the shibboleth call the Fairy Wren mother has patiently taught her own chicks (while they are still in the egg!). The Fairy Wren leaves the nest soon after (in disgust, I imagine) and the Bronze Cuckoo hatchling starves to death. Read more about it in detail from this site, written by “grrlScientist”, here.