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Species Guide
A photo of a Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor)
Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo

Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo

Hierococcyx nisicolor

The Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo, known scientifically as Hierococcyx nisicolor and colloquially as the whistling hawk-cuckoo, is a remarkable species of cuckoo. This bird is named in honor of the esteemed British naturalist Brian Houghton Hodgson.

Identification Tips

This species exhibits a striking resemblance to a hawk, which aids in its deceptive practices as a brood parasite. It is characterized by its hawk-like appearance and behavior.


The Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo is found in a variety of forested habitats across its range.


The bird graces the skies and woodlands of north-eastern India, Myanmar, southern China, and southeast Asia, where it is a common sight.


A master of mimicry and subterfuge, the Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo is a brood parasite. It lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, leaving the unwitting hosts to raise its young. The cuckoo chick, once hatched, will evict the legitimate offspring, monopolizing the resources provided by the foster parents. To compensate for its solitary presence, which might otherwise reduce the rate at which it is fed, the chick has evolved a cunning strategy. It possesses patches of skin under its wings that mimic additional gaping mouths, thus tricking the foster parents into providing more food.

Song & calls

The "whistling" moniker of the Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo is derived from its distinctive call, which contributes to its hawk-like persona.


As a brood parasite, the Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo does not build its own nest but relies on the nests of other bird species to raise its young.

Similar Species

The Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo was once considered to have four subspecies, but taxonomic revisions have led to the recognition of the Philippine hawk-cuckoo (H. pectoralis), Malaysian hawk-cuckoo (H. fugax), and rufous hawk-cuckoo or northern hawk-cuckoo (H. hyperythrus) as separate species.

Diet and Feeding

The Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo feeds on a variety of insects and other small prey, which it often captures with its hawk-like prowess.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List currently classifies the Hodgson's hawk-cuckoo as Least Concern, indicating that, for now, this species does not face an immediate threat of extinction.

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