Centropus burchellii (Burchell's coucal) 

Gewone vleiloerie [Afrikaans]; Ubikhwe [Xhosa]; uFukwe, umGugwane [Zulu]; Mukuku (generic term for cuckoos and coucals) [Kwangali]; Mohofa [South Sotho]; Umfuku [Swazi]; Mfukwana [Tsonga]; Burrchell-spoorkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucal de Burchell [French]; Tiputip [German]; Cucal de Burchell [Portuguese]

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Centropus burchellii (Burchell's coucal)  Centropus burchellii (Burchell's coucal) 

Burchell's coucal. [photo Jeff Poklen ]

Burchell's coucal. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

Centropus burchellii (Burchell's coucal)

Burchell's Coucal adult (left) and juvenile (right), Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Callie de Wet ]

  

The Burchell's coucal is endemic, being found mainly in South Africa, living in a wide variety of habitats. It is a voracious predator, feeding on small birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. Interestingly, the male does more work than the female, building the nest, incubating the eggs and doing most of the hunting. The chick's feet develop quickly, and they are capable of clambering around bushes long before they can fly. They usually leave the nest at 21 days old, after which they are still dependent on their parents for weeks.

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from north-eastern Mozambique and southern Malawi to northern Namibia, northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and eastern and southern South Africa. It generally prefers areas with dense vegetation and at least 600 mm of rainfall per year, such as thickets, reedbeds, coastal bush, borders between woodland and grassland and land adjacent to vleis.

Distribution of Burchell's coucal in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Food 

A voracious predator, it feeds mainly on small animals, rarely eating fruit. It does most of its foraging in bushes and trees, often flying down to the ground to catch prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • The male builds the nest, which is a large, scruffy collection of grass and leaves, shaped into a deep cup. It is placed 0.5-10m above ground, in a large grass tuft, reedbed, thicket, creeper, bush, hedge or thorny tree.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-March, with slight variations with different regions.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, with an interval of 1-2 days between the laying of each egg.
  • Incubation is done mostly by the male for about 15-16 days.
  • The chicks' feet develop quickly, and they are capable of clambering around bushes long before they can fly. They usually leave the nest at 21 days old, after which they are still dependent on their parents for many weeks.
Centropus burchellii (Burchell's coucal)   

Burchell's coucal nestlings, Modimolle, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

 

Threats

Not threatened.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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