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Cuckoo

   

The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. Most of the cuckoo species of the Old World are brood parasites. There are 138 species worldwide and 15 species which occur in Namibia.

Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus

The Jacobin Cuckoo, Pied Cuckoo, or Pied Crested Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds that is found in Africa and Asia. It is partially migratory and in India, it has been considered a harbinger of the Monsoon rains due to the timing of its arrival. It has been associated with a bird in Indian mythology and poetry, known as the Chatak and represented as a bird with a beak on its head that waits for rains to quench its thirst.

This medium sized, slim black and white cuckoo with a crest is distinctive. The white wing patch on the black wing and the pattern make it unmistakable even in flight. They are very vocal during the breeding season. The call is a ringing series of whistling notes "skleer-skleer-eer, skleeur,skleeur" with the calls of the nominate form more rapid and slightly mellower.

In India the subspecies serratus (Sparrman, 1786) is a summer breeding visitor to northern India and is believed to migrate to southern Africa. This is larger and longer winged than the nominate subspecies found in the southern peninsular region and Sri Lanka is said to be a local migrant. No ringing evidence exists to support the actual migration to Africa.

In the past some other African subspecies have been suggested such as hypopinarus from South Africa and caroli from the Gabon.

The species is distributed south of the Sahara in Africa and south of the Himalayas in India. Also found in Sri Lanka and parts of Myanmar. Within Africa, there are movements of the species although they are resident in tropical Africa. The east African population is migratory and moves over southern Arabia into India during April. The habitat of the species is mainly in thorny, dry scrub or open woodland avoiding areas of dense forest or extremely dry environments.

The skin of young birds darkens form pink to purplish brown within two days of hatching. The mouth linking is red with yellow gape flanges. Unlike some cuckoos, nestlings do not evict the eggs of the host from the nest although they claim most of the parental attention and food resulting sometimes, in the starvation of host nestlings.

These cuckoos feed on insects including hairy caterpillars that are picked up from near or on the ground. Caterpillars are pressed from end to end to remove the guts before they are swallowed. They sometimes feed on fruits.

Levaillant's Cuckoo Clamator levaillantii


Levaillant's Cuckoo, Clamator levaillantii is a cuckoo which is a resident breeding species in Africa south of the Sahara. It is found in bushy habitats. It is a brood parasite, using the nests of bulbuls and babblers. It was named in honour of the French explorer, collector and ornithologist, François Levaillant.

The cuckoo is 37.5 cm long, longer tailed than Pied Cuckoo, and with a more heavily streaked throat. There are two colour morphs. The light morph is black above, faintly glossed bluish or greenish. The throat streaking may extend on to the sides. The primaries and rectrix tips are white. The dark morph is black except for the white primary patch and white spots on the outer tail feathers (these are absent in dark Pied Cuckoo. The juvenile Levaillant's Cuckoo is brown above, rufous on thewing-coverts and rectrix tips, with a buff forehead, face and underparts, and the throat more streaked. The call is a low ringing kuwu-weer, kuwu-weer... and an excited ku-wi-wi-wi.

Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius


The Great Spotted Cuckoo, Clamator glandarius, is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes, which also includes the roadrunners, the anis, the coucals, and the Hoatzin.

It is a widespread summer migrant to southeast and southwest Europe and western Asia, and winters in Africa. It is a brood parasite, which lays its eggs in the nests of corvids (especially magpies), and starlings.

This species is slightly larger than the Common Cuckoo at 35-39 cm length, but looks much larger with its broad wings and long narrow tail.

Unlike the Common Cuckoo, neither the hen nor the hatched chick of this species evict the host's eggs, but the young magpies often die because they cannot compete successfully with the cuckoo for food.

The adult is grey above with a slender body, long tail and strong legs. It has a grey cap, grey wings, a yellowish face and upper breast, and white underparts. Sexes are similar.

The juveniles have blackish upperparts and cap, and chestnut primary wing feathers. This species has a magpie-like flight.

It is a bird of warm open country with trees. Its food is insects, with hairy caterpillars, which are distasteful to many birds, being a speciality.

The Great Spotted Cuckoo's call is a loud cher-cher-kri-kri and variations.

Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti


The Thick-billed Cuckoo (Pachycoccyx audeberti) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is monotypic within the genus Pachycoccyx. It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Red-chested Cuckoo Cuculus solitarius


The Red-chested Cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is a medium-sized bird (28 to 30 cm), found in Africa south of the Sahara.

It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In Southern Africa it is a common breeding migrant, found throughout the area except for the drier west.

The preferred habitats for the Red-chested Cuckoo are woodlands. The Red-chested Cuckoo is normally seen by itself rather than in the company of birds of the same species.

It is usually solitary and highly vocal and lives on forests and plantations. It eats insects.

The Red-chested Cuckoo takes on more than a single mate (it is bigamous). The nesting habit of Red-chested Cuckoo is to use the nest of another bird. The surrogate family then raise the chicks. The bird lays eggs which are brown in colour and number between 20 eggs per season in different nests.

Black Cuckoo Cuculus clamosus

The Black Cuckoo (Cuculus clamosus) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. The species is distributed widely across sub-Saharan Africa. The subspecies Cuculus clamosus gabonensis is a resident in Central Africa, whereas the Southern African subspecies Cuculus clamosus clamosus is migratory, breeding in Southern Africa in September to December, then moving in March to Central, Eastern and West Africa.

The Black Cuckoo is a medium sized cuckoo. The plumage varies by subspecies, Cuculus clamosus clamosus is either almost entirely black with a white buff on the chest or entirely black; Cuculus clamosus gabonensis is mostly black with a red throat and black and white barring on the belly.
The Black Cuckoo is a brood parasite. Its main hosts are bushshrikes, particularly the Tropical Boubou and Crimson-breasted Shrike.

Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus

The Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) (formerly European Cuckoo) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes, which also includes the roadrunners, the anis and the coucals.

This species is a widespread summer migrant to Europe and Asia, and winters in Africa. It is a brood parasite, which lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly of Dunnocks, Meadow Pipits, and Eurasian Reed Warblers.

The Common Cuckoo is a dove-sized bird, 32–34 centimeters long (tail 13–15 cm) and wingspan 55–60 cm. It is greyish with a slender body and long tail and could be mistaken as a falcon in flight. There is also a rufous colour phase which occurs occasionally in adult females but more often in juveniles.

The cuckoo family gets its common name and genus name by onomatopoeia for the call of the male Common Cuckoo, usually given from an open perch, goo-ko. During the breeding season the male typically gives this call with intervals of 1–1.5 seconds, in groups of 10–20 with a rest of a few seconds between groups. The female has a loud bubbling call.

A bird of open land. The cuckoo is a widespread summer migrant to Europe and Asia, and winters in Africa.
Its food is insects, with hairy caterpillars, which are distasteful to many birds, being a speciality. It also occasionally eats eggs and chicks.

It is a brood parasite, which lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species, particularly of Dunnocks, Meadow Pipits, and Eurasian Reed Warblers.

At the appropriate moment, the hen cuckoo flies down to the Reed Warblers' nest, pushes one Reed Warbler egg out of the nest, lays an egg and flies off. The whole process is achieved in only about 10 seconds.

Cuckoo chicks methodically evict all host progeny from host nests. It is a much larger bird than its hosts, and needs to monopolise the food supplied by the parents. The Cuckoo chick will roll the other eggs out of the nest by pushing them with its back over the edge. If the Reed Warbler's eggs hatch before the Cuckoo's egg, the Cuckoo chick will push the other chicks out of the nest in a similar way.

At 14 days old, the Cuckoo chicks are about three times the size of the adult Reed Warblers. The numerous and rapid hunger calls of the single cuckoo chick (which perfectly mimic the cries of a whole brood of warbler chicks), and to a lesser extent its coloured gape, encourage the host parents to bring more food.

Cuckoo chicks fledge after about 20–21 days after hatching, which is about twice as long as for Reed Warblers. If the hen cuckoo is out-of-phase with a clutch of Reed Warbler eggs, she will eat them all so that the hosts are forced to start another brood.

African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis

The African Cuckoo (Cuculus gularis) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Klaas's Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas


The Klaas's Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx klaas) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Klaas's Cuckoo is 16–18 cm in length. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism. Males have a glossy green body with few markings and plain white underparts. Females have a bronze-brown body, greenish wing coverts and faintly barred white underparts. Viewed in flight, the male is largely white with dark primaries and females appear mostly brown. Males and females both have a small white post-ocular patch.

African Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx cupreus


The African Emerald Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx cupreus) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Dideric Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius


The Dideric Cuckoo or Didric Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx caprius, is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes, which also includes the roadrunners, the anis, and the Hoatzin.

It is a very common resident breeder in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. It is a short-distance seasonal migrant, moving with the rains. It is a solitary bird, found in open woodland, savanna and riverside bushes. Has occurred as far north as Cyprus (1982).

The Dideric Cuckoo is a brood parasite. It lays its single egg mostly in the nests of weaver, especially Village Weaver and the bishops in the genus Euplectes.

The Dideric Cuckoo is a smallish cuckoo at 18 to 20 cm. Adult males are green above with copper-sheened areas on the back and whitish underparts. They have a broken white eyestripe, a green moustauchial stripe, and green outer tail feathers with small white spots.

Females show more copper above, and have coppery barring on the flanks. The underparts are often washed brownish. Juveniles are more copper-coloured above and browner below than the females, and the flank markings are brown blotches.

The Dideric Cuckoo takes a variety of insects and caterpillars. It is a noisy species, with the persistent and loud deed-deed-deed-deed-er-ick call from which it gets its name. Usually four clear, roughly identical, notes followed by a little twitter.

Black Coucal Centropus grillii

The Black Coucal (Centropus grillii) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The species has the role of sexes reversed with the males tending the nest while females are polyandrous and maintain territories. Studies on the hormonal system show that Progesterone is responsible for controlling the aggressiveness of females.

Coppery-tailed Coucal Centropus cupreicaudus

The Coppery-tailed Coucal (Centropus cupreicaudus) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The near passerine bird order Cuculiformes traditionally included three families as below:

  • Musophagidae - turacos and allies
  • Cuculidae - cuckoos, coucals and anis
  • Opisthocomidae - Hoatzin

However, the taxonomy of this group is now controversial. The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy raises the Musophagidae to an order Musophagiformes which may or may not be warranted. The Hoatzin continues to be enigmatic; it is probably best regarded as a distinct, monotypic order, especially if the turacos are also considered one. The coucals and anis are sometimes considered subfamilies of the Cuculidae, or otherwise assigned to families of their own, the Centropodidae and Crotophagidae respectively.

Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis


The Senegal Coucal, Centropus senegalensis, is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes, which also includes the roadrunners, the anis, and the Hoatzin.
It is a widespread species through Africa, except the northwest and into south Arabia. The Senegal Coucal is a bird of grassy habitats with trees, such as bush and savannah. It nests off the ground in vegetation, and the typical clutch is 2-4 eggs laid in a large nest built from stalks and leaves.

This is a medium-sized species at 39 cm. Its upperparts, bill, legs and long tail are black, the wings are chestnut, and the underparts are white. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller and barred above.

The Senegal Coucal takes a wide range of insects, caterpillars and small vertebrates. It occasionally eats other food items.

This is an abundant species, which advertises its presence with a loud ook-ook-ook call.

White-browed Coucal Centropus superciliosus


The White-browed Coucal (Centropus superciliosus) is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa.

The southern subspecies is sometimes split as Burchell's Coucal, Centropus burchelli. According to popular Southern African lore, this species' distinctive call, which resembles water pouring from a bottle, is said to signal impending rainfall, earning the bird the affectionate moniker Rainbird.

   
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