Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Blue-headed Coucal (Centropus monachus)


French: Coucal à nuque bleue German: Mönchskuckuck Spanish: Cucal monje

Centropus monachus


, 1837,

Kulla, northern Ethiopia


Thought to be part of a clade with C. senegalensis, C. cupreicaudus and C. superciliosus#R. Possible intermediates occur between present species and C. cupreicaudus, and their vocalizations are similar; on occasion treated as conspecific. Race occidentalis sometimes considered indistinguishable from fischeri. Proposed race heuglini (from large permanent swamps in Sudan), with blue (not violet) head, appears to represent an immature plumage of fischeri; birds of N Angola previously separated as race angolensis; birds from SW DRCongo (Shaba) described as supposedly smaller race verheyeni, but in fact overlap in size with fischeri. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. m. occidentalis Neumann, 1908 – Guinea, Ivory Coast and Ghana through S Nigeria, W & S Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to N Angola.
  • C. m. fischeri Reichenow, 1887 – Sudan to DRCongo, Uganda, W Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and NW Tanzania.
  • C. m. monachus Rüppell, 1837 – highlands of Eritrea and Ethiopia to C Kenya.
  • Descriptive notes

    45–52 cm; male 171 g, female 237 g. Adult blue-glossed black from forehead to upper back; lower back and wings reddish brown; rump, uppertail-coverts and tail unbarred... read more


    Deep and resonant, “water-bottle” and “coo” phrases slower and deeper than... read more


    Swamps, marshes, papyrus and river banks, forest edge, mesic savannas near water or forest, dense... read more

    Food and feeding

    A generalist carnivore, diet including insects (mainly grasshoppers and beetles), also snails, nestling birds, bird eggs, lizards, snakes,... read more


    Breeds Jun–Jul in Togo, Mar–Jun in Nigeria, Jan and Apr–Sept in Cameroon, Aug–Mar in NE Gabon, May–Nov in... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common within its range; common in village areas in NE Gabon, and very common around L Victoria and L Kyoga. Nominate monachus... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2019). Blue-headed Coucal (Centropus monachus). 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 20 November 2019).