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Species Guide
A photo of a Burchell's Coucal (Centropus burchellii)
Burchell's Coucal

Burchell's Coucal

Centropus burchellii

The Burchell's coucal, Centropus burchellii, is a species of cuckoo belonging to the family Cuculidae. It is a bird of substantial size, cloaked in a plumage that is predominantly rufous and black, with a striking contrast between the solid black head and the white underparts in the subspecies C. b. fasciipygialis. The adult's finely barred rump and tail coverts, along with the unmarked underpart plumage, are distinctive field marks.

Identification Tips

To identify Burchell's coucal, look for the creamy-white supercilium and heavily streaked nape, which are characteristic of this species. The juvenile plumages and calls are similar to those of the white-browed coucal, but the adult Burchell's can be distinguished by its barred rump and tail covert feathers.


Burchell's coucal favors environments with dense vegetation, thriving in bushveld, marshes, riparian fringes, and coastal bush. It is adept at navigating through thickets and is often found in areas with rank undergrowth and scrub.


The Burchell's coucal is found in the southeastern parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Its range extends from southeastern Botswana, Eswatini, western Lesotho, southern Mozambique, and throughout South Africa, to southeastern Zimbabwe, central and northern Mozambique, southern Malawi, and southeastern Tanzania, including Mafia Island.


This solitary or sometimes paired bird is more often heard than seen, due to its preference for moving stealthily through thickets. Its flight, when it takes to the air, is heavy and typically concludes with a long glide into the next dense cover.

Song & Calls

The Burchell's coucal is known for its distinctive call, reminiscent of water pouring from a bottle. It also emits various other calls, including a "dove" call and an alarm hiss. During the breeding season, these birds become more vocal, with couples calling in duet or groups calling in concert.


The breeding season, from September to February, sees the construction of a large matted nest within a thorn tree. The Burchell's coucal typically lays four white eggs, which hatch after 14 to 18 days. Both parents are involved in feeding the nestlings for an additional three weeks.

Diet and Feeding

A predatory bird, the Burchell's coucal stalks through dense bush in search of its prey, which includes insects like Orthoptera, snails, amphibians such as frogs and toads, reptiles including lizards and chameleons, and birds up to the size of a laughing dove. It is also known to raid the nests of other birds.

Similar Species

The white-browed coucal is similar in appearance and behavior but can be differentiated by the adult Burchell's coucal's barred rump and tail covert feathers.

Conservation status

The conservation status of Burchell's coucal is not specified in the provided content. However, as a professional ornithologist, one would refer to the IUCN Red List or similar resources for the most current information on the species' status.

Burchell's Coucal Sounds

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Burchell's Coucal Fun Facts

Did you know?
The Burchell's Coucal call is believed to signal the onset of rain due to its habit of calling during periods of high humidity and rain.

Burchell's Coucals on Birda


More Cuckoos

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