Anomalospiza imberbis (Cuckoo finch) 

Koekoekvink [Afrikaans]; Koekoekswever [Dutch]; Anomalospize parasite [French]; Kuckucksweber [German]; Tecel„o-parasita [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Viduidae

Anomalospiza imberbis (Cuckoo finch)   

Cuckoo finch, Midmar Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. [photo Alan Manson ©]


For information about this species, see

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in patches across Africa's western coast from Guinea to Cameroon, with a separate population extending from Ethiopia through Tanzania, Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. Here it is uncommon in Swaziland, Mpumalanga and surrounding provinces, while more common across Zimbabwe and northern Mozambique, extending into northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip (Namibia). It generally prefers open or lightly wooded grasslands, grassy vleis, flood plains, cultivated areas such as rice paddies and pastures, airfields and old cotton fields.

Distribution of Cuckoo finch 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.  

Movements and migrations

It can be resident, nomadic or migratory, moving in flocks of usually 8-50, but sometimes over 1000 birds, all looking for areas which have experienced recent rainfall.


It mainly eats grass seeds taken directly from plants or plucked from the ground, rarely eating insects. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Seeds
    • grass
      • Setaria sphacelata (Golden bristle grass)
    • Scirpus (sedges)
    • Helianthus (sunflowers)
  • Insects


  • It is a brood parasite, laying its eggs in other birds nests, especially the following species:
  • Egg-laying season is from September-April, peaking from December-February.
  • The female first removes one or all of the host's eggs before laying a single egg (usually parasitising four nests in the space of a few days), with a total of about 30 eggs laid in each breeding season. The egg usually hatches after about 14 days of incubation.
  • The chick is usually fed on a diet of insects, leaving the nest after about 18 days. It starts to forage about 10 days after fledging, but it remains under the care of its host for several weeks longer before leaving to join a flock of the same species.


Not threatened.


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



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