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Greater Coucal | Birds And Me

Greater Coucal


Greater Coucal

Scientific Name:  Centropus sinensis

Greater Coucal image

Greater Coucal  Photo by:  Sharvari Daithankar

Bird Type:  Perching Birds    1046  Views


Greater Coucal is a beautiful terrestrial bird, and although it resembles pheasants, it belongs to Cuculidae family, but it is not a brood parasite. It is also known as Crow Pheasant or Coucal.
Adult has glossy black-purple head and body. Wings are bright chestnut on upperwing, and black on underwing. Long graduated tail is glossy dark green. Contrast between chestnut and black is very conspicuous in adults.
Strong, heavy bill is blackish. Eyes are deep red. Legs and feet are dark grey.
Both sexes are similar.
Juvenile has black streaks on chestnut parts and pale buff streaks on black parts.


  • 48-48 cm

  • 19-19 Inch

  • orange

  • blue  (Bird may have more colors)
  •    বড় কুবো
  •    કૂકડિયો કુંભાર
  •    महोख, महोक कूक
  •    ಕೆಂಬೂತ
  •    ചെമ്പോത്ത്
  •    भारद्वाज, सोनकावळा, कुक्कुटकुंभा, कुंभारकावळा, सुलक्षणी, नपिता, चमारकुकडी, कुंभार्‍या (आदिवासी भाग)
  •    ढोडे गोकुल
  •    ଡାହୁକ
  •    ਕਮਾਦੀ ਕੁੱਕੜ
  •    कुक्कुभ
  •    செம்போத்து, செம்பகம்
  •    జెముడుకాకి

Greater Coucal lives in grassland and second growth, at forest edges, near cultivated areas and water. It is also found in mangroves, scrubs, marshes, reed beds and gardens.


Greater Coucal feeds on large insects, caterpillars, small vertebrates (young mice), snails, lizards, birds’ eggs, fruits and seeds.


Greater Coucal’s song is often uttered in duet with other Coucal. It is a deep coop-coop-coop-coop-coop, low-pitched. It gives this sound in particular posture, with buttressed body, and with head and neck convulsed downwards. This attitude favours sound propagation over long distances, with ground used as reflector.


The greater coucal or crow pheasant (Centropus sinensis), is a large non-parasitic member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes. A widespread resident in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, it is divided into several subspecies, some being treated as full species. They are large, crow-like with a long tail and coppery brown wings and found in wide range of habitats from jungle to cultivation and urban gardens. They are weak fliers, and are often seen clambering about in vegetation or walking on the ground as they forage for insects, eggs and nestlings of other birds. They have a familiar deep resonant call which is associated with omens in many parts of its range.

The greater coucal is a large bird which takes a wide range of insects, caterpillars and small vertebrates such as the Saw-scaled vipers. They are also known to eat bird eggs, nestlings, fruits and seeds. In Tamil Nadu they were found to feed predominantly on snails Helix vittata. They are also known to feed on the toxic fruits of Cascabela thevetia (Yellow Oleander). In Oil palm cultivation, they have been noted as an avian pest due to their habit of eating the fleshy mesocarps of the ripe fruits.


They sunbathe in the mornings singly or in pairs on the top of vegetation with their wings spread out. The territory of a nesting pair has been found in southern India to be 0.9 to 7.2 ha (mean 3.8 ha). They are most active in the warm hours of the morning and in the late afternoon.

The calls are a booming low coop-coop-coops repeated and with variations and some duets between individuals. When duetting the female has a lower pitched call. Other calls include a rapid rattling "lotok, lotok ..." and a harsh scolding "skeeaaaw" and a hissing threat call.


The breeding season is after the monsoon in southern India but varies in other parts of its range but chiefly June to September. Greater coucals are monogamous, and the courtship display involves chases on the ground and the male brings food gifts for the female. The female lowers her tail and droops her wings to signal acceptance. The nest is built mostly by the male over about three to eight days. The nest is a deep cup with a dome in dense vegetation inside tangles of creepers, bamboo clump or Pandanus crowns. They can be built as high as 6m above the ground and the typical clutch is 3–5 eggs. The eggs (of size 36–28 mm weighing 14.8 g ) are chalky white with a yellow glaze when laid that wears off. Both the male and the female take part in nest building. They lay 2 to 4 eggs that hatch after 15–16 days of incubation. The chicks take 18–22 days to fledge. A study in southern India found that 77% of the eggs hatched and 67% fledged. Nests with eggs were sometimes abandoned or marauded by the jungle crow Corvus macrorhynchos.

Haemosporidia closely related to those that cause malaria have been found in their red blood cells. One species, Haemoproteus centropi, is described from cuckoos such as Clamator jacobinus and Centropus sinensis and is spread by mosquitoes. Immature Haemaphysalis ticks have been found feeding on greater coucals.

    Resident (inc. local and altitudinal migrants)
    Former range (no recent records but may still survive)
    Summer visitor (including summer monsoon)
    Winter visitor
    Passage (autumn and/or spring) visitor
    known to be occasional, scarce or erratic
    Small isolated population (actual range smaller)  
    Isolated record(s) - one or more in the same area  
 colour coded for seasonality as per coloured ranges, black denotes unspecified season