Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Black Coucal (Centropus grillii)


French: Coucal noir German: Grillkuckuck Spanish: Cucal negro
Other common names: African Black Coucal

Centropus Grillii


, 1861,



Molecular data indicate that this species is closest to C. viridis and C. bengalensis#R#R. Sometimes regarded as conspecific with C. toulou, but voices of the two differ; has also been considered possibly conspecific with C. bengalensis, but marked differences in morphology and, apparently, vocalizations. Proposed races caeruleiceps (S Ethiopia) and wahlbergi (NE South Africa) considered undiagnosable. Monotypic.


Senegal, Gambia and Ivory Coast E through N Cameroon and Gabon to Ethiopia and Kenya, and S through S & E DRCongo to Angola, N Namibia, N Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, N Zimbabwe, Mozambique and NE South Africa.

Descriptive notes

Male 30 cm, 100 g; female 34 cm, 151 g. Adult black with rufous wings, tail glossy black, iris dark brown, bill black, feet black. Non-breeding plumage dark brown above,... read more


A double note repeated at 2-sec intervals, “kuk kuk” or “ko-kop”, also “hoo - hoo” at 1-sec... read more


Tall rank grass and reedbeds, grassland near freshwater swamps, especially in wide grassy river... read more

Food and feeding

Insects, especially grasshoppers, also beetles; spiders, mantids, small reptiles, seeds.


Breeds during rains when grass is high, Apr–Jul in coastal Ghana, Jul–Aug in N Ghana and N Nigeria, Dec–Feb in N Tanzania... read more


Resident in areas with permanent fresh water; other populations migrate into low-rainfall... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Patchily distributed and generally scarce over its entire range, but can be common in suitable habitat locally, e.g. not uncommon in suitable habitat... read more

Recommended citation

Payne, R. (2020). Black Coucal (Centropus grillii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).