Centropus grillii (Black
[= Centropus bengalensis]
Swartvleiloerie [Afrikaans]; Zwarte spoorkoekoek [Dutch]; Coucal
noir [French]; Tulukuckuck, Grillkuckuck [German]; Cucal-preto-africano
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fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial
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Reptilia (reptiles) >
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Coelurosauria > Maniraptora >Aves
(birds) > Order: Cuculiformes
> Family: Centropidae
For information about this species, see
The Black coucal occupies large areas of sub-Saharan Africa,
preferring moist, marshy grassland, with little or no trees. In southern Africa
it is scarce and localised, and is now classified as near-threatened
in South Africa, due to habitat loss. It exclusively eats
invertebrates, such as grasshoppers, centipedes and spiders. It is mostly
polyandrous, meaning that one female can mate with multiple males, laying 2-6
eggs in a cup-shaped nest built by the male. She then leaves for another male's
territory, leaving him to incubate the eggs, for about 14 days, and take care of
the chicks, who leave the nest at about 18-20 days old.
Distribution and habitat
Occupies large areas of sub-Saharan
Africa, although largely absent from East Africa and Tanzania. In southern
Africa it is scarce and localized, occurring in northern Namibia, northern
Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique and marginally in eastern
South Africa. It generally prefers
moist, marshy grassland with little or no trees.
Distribution of Black coucal in southern Africa,
based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas
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.
The following food items have been recorded in its diet:
- Mainly polyandrous, but monogamy has also been
recorded, meaning that some females mate with only one male while others
can mate with up to the three different males. A polyandrous female would
mate with a suitable male, then lay eggs in his nest before moving on to
another males territory, leaving him to incubate eggs and care for the
- The nest (see image below) is built by the male, consisting of a deep cup
nestled in thick tufts of grass.
- Egg-laying season is from December-March, peaking from January-February.
- It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated solely by the male for about 14
- The chicks are fed and cared for by the male, permanently leaving the
nest after about 18-20 days and fledging about a week later.
The nest, placed in thick grass.
Close-up, with two eggs.
Near-threatened in South Africa, mainly due to
habitat loss. For information about this species conservation, see
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.