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Species Guide
A photo of a Violet Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus), male
Violet Cuckoo, Male

Violet Cuckoo

Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus

The Violet Cuckoo, known scientifically as Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, is a striking bird with sexual dimorphism in its plumage. The male boasts a resplendent glossy violet sheen on its head and upper body, with a blackish tail featuring a white tip and barred outer feathers. Its chin and upper breast shimmer with an iridescent violet, while the belly is white with bold bars of black, green, or violet. A distinctive red eye-ring adorns the mature males. In contrast, the female is clad in mottled greenish-bronze with a dark brown crown, white eye markings, and a breast of whitish hue with bronze-green bars.

Identification Tips

To identify the Violet Cuckoo, look for the male's glossy violet feathers and the iridescent throat patch, which is a reddish violet, distinguishing it from the closely related C. amethystinus with a glossy blue-violet throat. Females are recognized by their greenish-bronze upper parts and barred tail feathers. Juveniles display a mix of rufous and greenish bronze on their upper parts and a barred brown and rufous tail.


This species thrives in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, as well as mangrove forests. It can also be found in human-altered landscapes such as gardens, orchards, and rubber plantations.


The Violet Cuckoo's range extends from north-eastern India through Southeast Asia to the Greater Sundas, Palawan, and the Philippines. While southern populations are resident, those in the north, including Assam and Bangladesh, are migratory.


Insectivorous by nature, the Violet Cuckoo also partakes in fruit. It exhibits a unique behavior of shaking hairy caterpillars to expel their stomach contents before consumption. These birds forage by creeping along branches or capturing prey mid-flight. During the breeding season, males become vocal and active to attract mates, while females discreetly search for host nests to lay their eggs.


As brood parasites, Violet Cuckoos lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, particularly sunbirds and spiderhunters. The host species may chase away adult cuckoos but fail to recognize the foreign eggs in their nests.

Similar Species

The Violet Cuckoo can be confused with the closely related species C. amethystinus, but can be differentiated by the color of the throat patch.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists primarily of insects and fruit, with a noted behavior of preparing hairy caterpillars for consumption by removing their stomach contents.

Conservation status

The IUCN lists the Violet Cuckoo as Least Concern due to its wide range. However, there are indications that habitat loss may pose a threat in certain areas of its distribution.

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Violet Cuckoos on Birda

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Profile picture for Qian Xun Lim
Qian Xun Lim
30 Apr 2023 - 6:22am

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