Clamator levaillantii (Levaillant's cuckoo, Striped cuckoo)

Gestreepte nuwejaarsvoël [Afrikaans]; Tihunyi (also applied to Jacobin cuckoo) [Tsonga]; Levaillant-koekoek [Dutch]; Coucou de Levaillant [French]; Kapkuckuck [German]; Cuco da Cafraria [Portuguese]

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Clamator levaillantii (Levaillant's cuckoo , Striped cuckoo) Clamator levaillantii (Levaillant's cuckoo , Striped cuckoo)

Levaillant's cuckoo, Ethiopia. [photo Kristian Svensson ©]

Levaillant's cuckoo, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

The Levaillant's cuckoo occurs in huge areas of sub-Saharan Africa, preferring Acacia, miombo and broad-leaved Burkea woodland. It is extremely secretive and hard to find, foraging in thick undergrowth. It almost exclusively parasitizes babblers, for reasons not understood. Egg-laying is an elaborate process, with the male distracting the host birds, while the female sneaks into the nest to lay its egg. Unlike many other cuckoos, the chick does not kill the host nestlings, in fact they often co-exist quite peacefully. The chick stays in the nest for about 9-10 days, becoming fully independent 3-5 weeks later.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding arid areas. In southern Africa it is uncommon in northern Namibia, northern and southern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa. It is secretive and elusive, generally preferring Acacia, miombo (Brachystegia) and broad-leaved Burkea woodland.

Distribution of Levaillant's cuckoo 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.  

Call

 
   

Recorded by Clem Hagner, [© Transvaal Museum]

 

Movements and migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa from October-November, going through its full breeding cycle before departing around March-April.

Food 

Eats mainly caterpillars, occasionally supplemented with other insects or fruit. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in other birds nests. The host, thinking that the egg is its own, incubates the egg and cares for the chick. The following bird species have been recorded to be parasitized by the Levaillant's cuckoo:
  • Egg-laying season is from October-May.
  • It is difficult for the female to lay an egg in the host nest, as they usually attack cuckoos vigorously. In order to distract them, both sexes fly around acrobatically, provoking a group attack from the hosts. The male takes the brunt of the attack, while the female endeavours to lay an egg in the nest, after which both sexes retreat, with the host birds hot in pursuit. This process can last hours, sometimes even 2-3 days! 
  • The chick hatches after an incubation period of about 11-13 days, remaining in the nest for around 9-10 days. Unlike many other cuckoos, the chick does not kill the host nestlings, in fact they often co-exist quite peacefully. It learns to fly soon after leaving, becoming fully independent at about 29-42 days old.

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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