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Coppery-tailed Coucal

Centropus cupreicaudus

The Coppery-tailed Coucal, a member of the cuckoo family, is a striking bird approximately 48 cm in length. It boasts a distinctive curved beak and a long, broad tail that is characteristic of its species. The adult's plumage is a study in contrasts, with a glossy black head and upperparts, and a contrasting white or cream underbelly. The rump glistens with a coppery sheen, while the tail is a dark brownish-black. In contrast, the immature birds display pale streaks on their heads and barred flight feathers, hinting at their youth.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Coppery-tailed Coucal, look for its sizeable curved beak and the long tail. The adult's black and white plumage with a coppery rump is distinctive, while the immature bird can be recognized by the streaks on its head and the barring on its flight feathers. Males are marginally smaller than females, a subtle difference that may aid in identification.


This species is most commonly found in the swamplands and dense vegetation that flourish near rivers. It also inhabits inundated floodplains and areas adjacent to seasonal lakes, thriving in these wetland environments.


The Coppery-tailed Coucal's range extends across south-central Africa, from Angola in the west to southwestern Tanzania, and includes northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip in Namibia. Its territory spans an impressive 1,750,000 square kilometers.


A territorial bird, the Coppery-tailed Coucal is most active in the early morning and evening. It forages on land, preying on a diverse diet that includes amphibians, fish, small birds, reptiles, and rodents, as well as invertebrates like grasshoppers, crabs, and snails. Remarkably, it also scavenges for carrion and consumes some plant matter. During the breeding season, it exhibits monogamous behavior, with both parents contributing to nest building and care for the young.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Coppery-tailed Coucal are composed of deep, bubbling notes that resonate through its wetland habitats.


Breeding season for this species occurs from January to March. The Coppery-tailed Coucal is believed to be monogamous, with both parents involved in nesting activities. They construct a domed nest out of grasses, reed fragments, and twigs, lining it with leaves. Nesting may begin even before the structure is complete. The clutch typically consists of two to four eggs, which are incubated immediately after the first egg is laid. The eggs hatch at intervals, and both parents are diligent in caring for the young, feeding them on frogs and locusts. The fledglings leave the nest at about seventeen days old, sometimes before they are fully capable of flight.

Similar Species

The Coppery-tailed Coucal can be confused with the Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis), but careful observation of the coppery sheen on the rump and the size of the bird can help distinguish between the two.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Coppery-tailed Coucal is varied, including amphibians, fish, small birds, reptiles, rodents, grasshoppers, crabs, snails, and occasionally green plant material. It also displays opportunistic behavior by scavenging for dead fish and other edible detritus.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Coppery-tailed Coucal as "Least Concern" due to its extensive range and stable population trend. While the exact population numbers are not known, it is considered common in certain parts of its range.

Coppery-tailed Coucal Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Coppery-tailed Coucals on Birda


More Cuckoos

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

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Cacomantis flabelliformis
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