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Species Guide

Pheasant Cuckoo

Dromococcyx phasianellus

The Pheasant Cuckoo, known scientifically as Dromococcyx phasianellus, is a rather striking bird, large in size and sporting a short crest with a hint of rusty brown. Its plumage is a dark sooty-brown above, while below, it is a pale buff adorned with small black streaks across the breast. The tail is a marvel of uneven lengths, with the central feathers stretching out the longest, creating a distinctive profile.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify this elusive bird, look for its unique tail structure and the contrasting streaks on its underparts. The crest may also be a helpful feature, along with its overall dark upperparts. Observers should note the bird's size and shape, which are reminiscent of a pheasant, hence its common name.


The Pheasant Cuckoo favors the understory of tropical lowland evergreen forests, riverine forests, and tropical deciduous forests. It thrives from sea level to elevations of up to 1600 meters.


This bird's range extends through a variety of countries in Central and South America, including Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.


The Pheasant Cuckoo is a solitary creature, often difficult to spot due to its secretive nature. During the breeding season, males may engage in counter-singing or perform a strutting display to assert dominance or attract mates. This display is quite the spectacle, involving the bird raising its head and crest, puffing out its breast feathers, and partially extending its wings to reveal white spots, all while arching its tail coverts.

Song & Calls

The bird's vocalizations are a series of two short whistles, the second ascending in pitch, followed by a trill that can be phonetically described as "whee! whee! wheerr-rr". These calls can emanate from various perches or even from the ground.


The Pheasant Cuckoo engages in brood parasitism, laying its eggs in the nests of other bird species, such as tyrant flycatchers and antshrikes. The host species then unwittingly raise the cuckoo's offspring. The intricacies of its breeding habits remain somewhat enigmatic.

Diet and Feeding

An insectivore by nature, the Pheasant Cuckoo's diet consists mainly of grasshoppers, cicadas, and beetles. It may also consume small lizards and nestlings on occasion. Its foraging behavior is quite distinctive, involving a series of movements and sounds such as bill clapping and plumage vibrating, followed by a quick lunge forward to snatch prey from the leaf litter.

Conservation status

Currently, the Pheasant Cuckoo is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, indicating that, for now, it does not face any immediate threat of extinction.

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Pheasant Cuckoos on Birda


More Cuckoos

A photo of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis)

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Cacomantis flabelliformis
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