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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Cuculidae (Old World cuckoos)

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

Species indigenous to southern Africa

Cercococcyx montanus (Barred long-tailed cuckoo, Barred cuckoo) 


Ceuthmochares aereus (Green malkoha, Green coucal) 

The Green malkoha occurs in band extending across eastern sub-Saharan Africa, from Kenya to Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal. It usually prefers dense thickets at forest edges, avoiding the middle of the forest. It mainly eats insects and small vertebrates, usually foraging in dense vegetation but occasionally emerging to catch termite alates or caterpillars. It is probably monogamous, nesting in a flimsy platform of twigs and plant detritus, usually concealed in thick vegetation. There is little more information about its breeding habits, as there have been no large studies done on this species.

Chrysococcyx caprius (Diderick cuckoo) 

The Diderick cuckoo is common in large areas of southern Africa, and lives in wide variety of habitats. It feeds exclusively on invertebrates, especially caterpillars. As it is a brood parasite, it lays its eggs in other birds nests, laying 1 per nest but 22-24 in the whole breeding season. It destroys any eggs that the host has laid, before laying 1 egg, after which it leaves and is often mobbed by the host. The chick eats the other eggs or chicks that its parent didn't remove, in the first 3 days. It stays in the nest for about 19-22 days, after which the chick remains with its host parents for about 21 more days.

Chrysococcyx cupreus (African emerald cuckoo, Emerald cuckoo) 

Chrysococcyx klaas (Klaas's cuckoo) 

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.

Clamator glandarius (Great spotted cuckoo) 

The Great-spotted cuckoo is fairly common across its scattered range, living in savannas and grasslands. It feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, rarely eating reptiles. It only parasitizes crows and starlings, waiting until the host is not present, before laying 1-4 eggs into its nest. It lays up to 6 eggs in one day, and up to 23 in the whole season. Unlike some cuckoos, the chicks do not always kill their "siblings", but will sometimes peck and damage them. It stays in the nest for 22-26 days, the period after this has not been studied. Interestingly, an adult cuckoo was once recorded feeding a fledgling.

Clamator jacobinus (Jacobin cuckoo) 

The Jacobin cuckoo is fairly common and widespread, with a occurring from India to Arabia south to large areas of southern Africa. It is a specialist, feeding mainly on caterpillars, foraging by hopping from branch to branch, snatching insects from the foliage. It is a brood parasite, laying its eggs in other birds nests (usually bulbuls). It lays 1 egg per nest, laying a total of about 25 eggs in one breeding season. The chick hatches after an incubation period of about 11-13 days, remaining in the nest for roughly 17 days. It learns to fly soon after leaving, becoming fully independent at about 33 days old.

Clamator levaillantii (Levaillant's cuckoo, Striped cuckoo) 

The Levaillant's cuckoo occurs in huge areas of sub-Saharan Africa, preferring Acacia, miombo and broad-leaved Burkea woodland. It is extremely secretive and hard to find, foraging in thick undergrowth. It almost exclusively parasitizes babblers, for reasons not understood. Egg-laying is an elaborate process, with the male distracting the host birds, while the female sneaks into the nest to lay its egg. Unlike many other cuckoos, the chick does not kill the host nestlings, in fact they often co-exist quite peacefully. The chick stays in the nest for about 9-10 days, becoming fully independent 3-5 weeks later.

Cuculus canorus (Common cuckoo, European cuckoo) 

Cuculus clamosus (Black cuckoo)

The Black cuckoo is common and widespread, occurring throughout sub-Saharan Africa, preferring relatively thick forest and Acacia woodland. Its diet consists mostly of insects, especially caterpillars, but it also eats the eggs and sometimes chicks of its host. It almost exclusively parasitizes shrikes and boubous, especially of the Laniarius genus. It lays eggs in "clutches" of 4, one laid every 2 days. In total, the female can lay around 22 eggs in one breeding season. A few days after hatching, the chick removes any existing eggs in the host's nest. It stays in the nest for about 20-21 days, becoming fully independent at around 39-64 days old.

Cuculus gularis (African cuckoo) 

The African cuckoo occupies huge areas of sub-Saharan Africa, absent from parts of the DRC, Somalia, South Africa and Namibia. It usually occurs in open woodland and Acacia savanna, mostly eating caterpillars. It exclusively parasitizes Fork-tailed drongos: the male distracts them whilst the female flies in to the nest, removes any existing eggs before laying one of its own. Soon after hatching, the chick removes any existing Drongo eggs or chicks in the nest, remaining in the nest for about 23 days before leaving.

Cuculus poliocephalus (Lesser cuckoo) 

Cuculus rochii (Madagascar cuckoo) 

Cuculus solitarius (Red-chested cuckoo) 

The Red-chested cuckoo is mainly found in the eastern half of southern Africa, and is quite common in protected areas, living in a wide range of habitats. It feeds mostly on invertebrates, particularly hairy caterpillars but also grasshoppers and beetles, amongst others. It mostly parasitizes members of Muscicapidae (robins, thrushes, flycatchers, etc.), rushing into their nests, and removing the host's eggs before laying one of its own, all in just 5 seconds! Once the chick is 2 days old, it evicts the host's eggs and nestlings. It stays in the nest for 17-21 days, and is dependent on its host parents for 20-25 days more, before becoming fully independent.

Pachycoccyx audeberti (Thick-billed cuckoo)