The Red-chested cuckoo is mainly found in the eastern half of
southern Africa, and is quite common in protected areas, living in a wide range
of habitats. It feeds mostly on invertebrates, particularly hairy caterpillars but
also grasshoppers and beetles, amongst others. It mostly parasitizes members of
Muscicapidae (robins, thrushes,
flycatchers, etc.), rushing into their nests,
and removing the host's eggs before laying one of its own, all in just 5
seconds! Once the chick is 2 days old, it evicts the host's eggs and nestlings.
It stays in the nest for 17-21 days, and is dependent on its host
parents for 20-25 days more, before becoming fully independent.
Distribution and habitat
Occurs throughout Africa south of the Sahara, but avoids arid regions.
In southern Africa it is common in eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique,
Swaziland and eastern and southern South Africa. It generally prefers Afromontane forest, closed
woodland, Miombo woodland, open savanna thickets,
stands of trees in human settlements, mature gardens and parks.
Feeds mainly on invertebrates, especially hairy
caterpillars, doing most of its foraging in the tree canopy. It occasionally
down to the lower branches to pick up a scrap of food. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:
It is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its
eggs in other bird 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 host of the Red-chested cuckoo:
The female often has a hard time getting into the host's nest,
as it is constantly mobbed and attacked. Amazingly, once it has got into the nest it can
remove the host's egg and lay one of its own in less than 5 seconds! In one
observation, the female laid 20 eggs in one breeding season.
Once the chick is about two days old, it evicts the host's eggs and nestlings.
It stays in the nest for 17-21 days, becoming fully independent 20-25 days