Under construction

This section is still under construction! Although mostly functional, there is still plenty of information missing and many images are waiting to be added. We are working as quickly as we can...

Burchell's Coucal
(Centropus burchelli)

Burchell's Coucal

General description

The Burchell's Coucal is a rich chestnut-brown colour with marked bands on its upperparts, a black head, creamy undercarriage and a long black tail.

Name & classification

Scientific name:
Centropus burchelli

Common names:
Burchell's Coucal (English)
Gewone Vleiloerie (Afrikaans)

Roberts VII english name:
Burchell's Coucal

Roberts VII scientific name:
Centropus burchelli

Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Further information



Despite its handsome appearance and gentle song, the bird is a voracious predator, frequently raiding the nests of other birds to feast on any young nestlings and eggs it finds there. It will devour anything smaller than itself and also preys on frogs, lizards, rodents and insects.

Burchell's coucal is an attractive bird, although not often seen. Being a shy species, it spends most of its time secluded in dense undergrowth and scrub even when venturing into suburban gardens.

The male builds the nest, which is a large, scruffy collection of grass and leaves, shaped into a deep cup. It is placed 0.5 - 10m above ground, in a large grass tuft, reedbed, thicket, creeper, bush, hedge or thorny tree.

Egg-laying season is from September-March, with slight variations with different regions.

It lays 2-5 eggs, with an interval of 1-2 days between the laying of each egg.

Incubation is done mostly by the male for about 15-16 days.

The chicks' feet develop quickly, and they are capable of clambering around bushes long before they can fly. They usually leave the nest at 21 days old, after which they are still dependent on their parents for many weeks.

Natural distribution:
Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from north-eastern Mozambique and southern Malawi to northern Namibia, northern and south-eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and eastern and southern South Africa.

It generally prefers areas with dense vegetation and at least 600mm of rainfall per year, such as thickets, reedbeds, coastal bush, borders between woodland and grassland and land adjacent to vleis.

South African poet Douglas Livingstone refers to the call of the Burchell's coucal as the "rainbird's liquid note". This so aptly describes the sound made by Centropus burchelli which sounds remarkably similar to water being poured from a narrow-necked bottle, and is believed to signal the onset of rain. This is due to the bird's tendency for bursting into song during periods of high humidity, before during and after rain.

Other names: Ubikhwe (Xhosa), uFukwe, umGugwane (Zulu), Mukuku (generic term for cuckoos and coucals) (Kwangali), Mohofa (South Sotho), Umfuku (Swazi), Mfukwana (Tsonga)

User notes & lists

You need to be a registered user in order to create bird lists and notes. If you have already registered, then please log in now, otherwise, register here. It will only take a moment and we won't pass your information on to anyone else.

You can then use this section to create lists of your own birds in your garden, or a list of favourite birds or simply a wish list

No one has ever become poor by giving

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.


  ·   Privacy policy  ·   Sitemap  ·   © African Legacy
African Legacy is an accredited Non-profit Organisation (Reg no. 179-829 NPO)