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the web of life in southern Africa

Pachycoccyx audeberti (Thick-billed cuckoo) 

Dikbekkoekoek [Afrikaans]; Diksnavelkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucou d'Audebert [French]; Dickschnabelkuckuck [German]; Cuco-de-bico-grosso [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

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches of West Africa, as well as the area from eastern DRC through Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is uncommon to rare in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Mpumalanga, generally preferring well-developed woodland with Zambezi teak (Baikaiea plurijuga), miombo (Brachystegia) and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane).

Distribution of Thick-billed 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.  



Recorded by Clem Hagner, Mkuze Game Reserve, South Africa, [ Transvaal Museum]


Movements and migrations

Nomadic and migratory, as for example it is a breeding visitor to Lake Kyle, Zimbabwe from September-December.


Mainly eats caterpillars, grasshoppers and mantids, doing most of its foraging by grabbing prey from the canopy.


  • Polyandrous brood parasite; males defend a small territory in which they display to passing females, mating with many females in the breeding season. They each go on to lay eggs in the nests of another bird, which is almost invariably a Retz's helmet-shrike.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-April.
  • Since there is always at least one adult guarding the nest, the female has to be aggressive in order to lay her egg. She first rams into the incubating host and pushes it off the nest, then quickly removes the host's eggs and lays one of her own. The egg is typically incubated for about 13 days.
  • The chick ejects any other eggs or nestlings within four days of hatching, leaving the nest at about 28-30 days old and becoming fully independent roughly 50 days later.


Considered to be Rare but not threatened, although fragmentation of miombo (Brachystegia) woodland and other forms of woodland clearance are 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.