home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Chrysococcyx cupreus (African emerald cuckoo , Emerald cuckoo) 

Mooimeisie [Afrikaans]; Intananja [Xhosa]; uBantwanyana [Zulu]; Smaragdkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucou foliotocol [French]; Smaragdkuckuck [German]; Cuco-esmeraldino [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Cuculiformes > Family: Cuculidae

Chrysococcyx cupreus (African emerald cuckoo , Emerald cuckoo)  Chrysococcyx cupreus (African emerald cuckoo , Emerald cuckoo) 

African emerald cuckoo, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ]

African emerald cuckoo, St. Lucia, South Africa. [photo Jan Van den Broek ]


For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/African_Emerald_Cuckoo

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding extremely arid areas. Within southern Africa it is locally common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia). It generally prefers evergreen and riparian forest,  dense woodland and moist savanna, occasionally moving into well-wooded suburbs.

Distribution of African emerald cuckoo in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Primarily a breeding migrant to southern Africa, staying from September-April, although occasionally remaining in the remaining in the region during winter.


Mainly eats caterpillars and grasshoppers, supplemented with adult Acraea butterflies and fruit such as Wild peach (Kiggeleria africana), doing most of its foraging in the middle and upper canopy.


  • Promiscuous, territorial brood parasite, with each male defending a display territory and mating with multiple females, which then lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
  • The following birds have been recorded as hosts of the African emerald cuckoo:
  • Egg-laying season is from October-January.
  • It typically lays a single egg in each host nest (destroying one host egg first), laying 3-4 egg clutches on successive days; by the end of the breeding season the female would of laid about 20 eggs in total.
  • The chick kicks out any of the host's eggs or nestlings at about two days old, leaving the nest after approximately 22 days.


Not threatened, although destruction of riparian and lowland forest may be cause for concern.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.