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the web of life in southern Africa

Chrysococcyx klaas (Klaas's cuckoo) 

Meitjie [Afrikaans]; Klaaskoekoek [Dutch]; Coucou de Klaas [French]; Klaaskuckuck [German]; Cuco-bronzeado-menor [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 klaas (Klaas's cuckoo)  Chrysococcyx klaas (Klaas's cuckoo) 

Klaas's cuckoo male. [photo Isidro Vila Verde ]

Klaas's cuckoo female, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

The Klaas's cuckoo is fairly common across sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from arid desert, usually occupying broad-leaved woodland. It is mainly insectivorous, specializing in butterflies and caterpillars. It is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in other birds nests. The host, thinking that the egg is its own, incubates the egg, and cares for the chick. It lays 1 egg per nest, laying roughly 24 eggs in one breeding season.  The chicks usually hatch after an incubation period of about 11-12 days. Soon after hatching, the chick evicts any of the host's chicks or eggs that are present in the nest. It stays in the nest for about 19-21 days, after which it remains with the host bird for up to 25 days.

Distribution and habitat

Fairly common across sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from arid desert. In southern Africa it is fairly common in central and northern Namibia, northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and southern and eastern South Africa. It generally prefers open broad-leaved woodland, especially miombo (Brachystegia) and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane) woodland, but it also occupies dense Acacia thickets, forest edges, gardens and alien tree stands around farmsteads.

Distribution of Klaas's 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.  


Mainly insectivorous, specializing in butterflies and caterpillars. It usually forages in the foliage of trees or bushes, taking insects from leaves and occasionally hawking a flying insect. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


Chrysococcyx klaas (Klaas's cuckoo) 

Klaas's cuckoo juvenile being fed by a Batis capensis (Cape batis). [photo Alan Manson ]


Not threatened, in fact its distribution range seems to have expanded recently.


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