Cuculus clamosus (Black cuckoo) 

Swartkoekoek [Afrikaans]; Unomntanofayo [Xhosa]; iNdodosibona [Zulu]; Tetsa-kolilo [South Sotho]; Zwarte koekoek [Dutch]; Coucou criard [French]; Schwarzkuckuck [German]; Cuco-preto [Portuguese]

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Cuculus clamosus (Black cuckoo)  Cuculus clamosus (Black cuckoo) 
Cuculus clamosus (Black cuckoo)

Black cuckoo, Mokala National Park, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ].

Top right: Black cuckoo, Mokala National Park, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ].

Bottom right:Black cuckoo, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ]

 

For information about this species, see www.birdforum.net/opus/Black_Cuckoo

The Black cuckoo is common and widespread, occurring throughout sub-Saharan Africa, preferring relatively thick forest and Acacia woodland. Its diet consists mostly of insects, especially caterpillars, but it also eats the eggs and sometimes chicks of its host. It almost exclusively parasitizes shrikes and boubous, especially of the Laniarius genus. It lays eggs in "clutches" of 4, one laid every 2 days. In total, the female can lay around 22 eggs in one breeding season. A few days after hatching, the chick removes any existing eggs in the host's nest. It stays in the nest for about 20-21 days, becoming fully independent at around 39-64 days old.

Distribution and habitat

Common and widespread, occurring throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it occupies large areas of northern and central Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and northern and eastern South Africa. It is unobtrusive, often perching in the upper areas of the tree canopy, singing its monotonous and highly repetitive call. It generally prefers evergreen forest, miombo woodland, Acacia thicket, valley bushveld and trees surrounding settlements.

Distribution of Black 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 Roger Bolton, Lake McIlwane 1965, [ Transvaal Museum]

 

Movements and migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa from September-October, and eventually departing for its non-breeding grounds around January.

Food 

The Black cuckoo's diet consists mostly of insects, especially caterpillars, but it also eats the eggs and sometimes chicks of its host. 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 as hosts of the Black cuckoo:
  • Egg-laying season peaks from November-December in most areas except Namibia, where it peaks around February-March.
  • The female removes any existing eggs in the host's nest before laying one of her own. It lays eggs in clutches of four, one laid every two days. In total, the female typically lays around 22 eggs in one breeding season.
  • The chick removes any existing eggs in the host's nest a few days after hatching. It stays in the nest for about 20-21 days, becoming fully independent at 39-64 days old.
Cuculus clamosus (Black cuckoo)  

Black cuckoo chick in the nest of a Crimson-breasted shrike, Nylsvley area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

 

Threats

Not threatened, in fact quite common in protected areas.

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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