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the web of life in southern Africa

Cuculus canorus (Common cuckoo , European cuckoo) 

Europese koekoek [Afrikaans]; Mukuku (generic term for cuckoos and coucals) [Kwangali]; Koekoek [Dutch]; Coucou gris [French]; Kuckuck [German]; Cuco-canoro [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

Cuculus canorus (Common cuckoo , European cuckoo)  

Common cuckoo, Britain. [photo Martin Goodey ]


Distribution and habitat

Breeds across Eurasia, from the Iberian Peninsula east to Siberia and south to Japan and the Mediterranean; in the non-breeding season it heads south it to sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is locally common in central and northern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), Botswana, Zimbabwe, central Mozambique and eastern South Africa. It generally prefers woodlands, such as savanna, miombo (Brachystegia) woodland, plantations and stands of trees around human settlements.

Distribution of Common 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.  

Movements and migrations

Arrives in southern Africa in the period from October-November, departing in April.


Eats mainly caterpillars, doing most of its foraging by gleaning prey from leaves and branches. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


Not threatened, in fact it is widespread and common.


  • 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.