Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Brush Cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus)


French: Coucou des buissons German: Buschkuckuck Spanish: Cuco varioloso

Cuculus variolosus

Vigors and Horsfield

, 1827,

Paramatta, New South Wales, Australia


Form sepulcralis (incorporating everetti, virescens, infaustus and, usually, C. aeruginosus aeruginosus is often treated as a distinct species on grounds of claimed morphological and vocal differences, but latter very slight#R; further, contention that it is sympatric with variolosus in Moluccas#R has been refuted#R; sometimes reckoned to be closer to C. merulinus. Several additional island races have been described, but are nowadays considered invalid. Proposed race obiensis (of Obi) may prove valid (and long-presumed occurrence of infaustus there is contested) but it may prove to belong to C. aeruginosus#R; recent survey of Obi reported 2–3 different forms of Cacomantis, and it seems likely that present species and C. aeruginosus may both occur, but further work required#R. Proposed form dumetorum (N Australia from Kimberley to NE Queensland) is regarded as a synonym of nominate race. Ten subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. v. sepulcralis (S. Müller, 1843) – Rusty-breasted Cuckoo – S Thailand, S Myanmar (Tenasserim) and Peninsular Malaysia through Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali and Philippines to Lesser Sundas (Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Alor).
  • C. v. everetti E. J. O. Hartert, 1925 – SW Philippines (Basilan and Sulu Is).
  • C. v. virescens (Brüggemann, 1876) – Sulawesi, Banggai Is (Peleng), Butung and Tukangbesi Is; probably also Sula Is#R.
  • C. v. infaustus Cabanis & Heine, 1863 – N & E Moluccas (Morotai, Ternate, Tidore, Halmahera, Bacan, Seram Laut, Watubela Is, Kai Is and probably Obi), New Guinea and islands off N & E coasts.
  • C. v. oreophilus E. J. O. Hartert, 1925 – highlands of E & S New Guinea.
  • C. v. blandus Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1914 – Admiralty Is.
  • C. v. macrocercus Stresemann, 1921 – Bismarck Archipelago (except New Hanover), Tabar I.
  • C. v. websteri E. J. O. Hartert, 1898 – New Hanover.
  • C. v. addendus Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1901 – Solomon Is.
  • C. v. variolosus (Vigors & Horsfield, 1827) – Brush Cuckoo – N & E Australia; winters N to EC Lesser Sundas (Timor, Wetar, Kisar, Babar, Tanimbar), Moluccas, Aru Is, W Papuan islands, New Guinea.
  • Also breeds (probably sepulcralis or infaustus) in Tanimbar Is.

    Descriptive notes

    21–28 cm; 34 g. Adult male sepulcralis grey above, head grey, wings brown, tail black with white tip and white notches on outer edges; rufous below, unbarred,... read more


    Song a series of c. 7–8 mournful whistled notes, each descending, “fear-fear-fear...... read more


    Rainforest, secondary forest, scrub, mangroves, waterside thickets of honeymyrtle (Melaleuca... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, mainly caterpillars (hairless and hairy: Pieridae, Lasiocampidae, Saturniidae, Arctiidae; also Lepidoptera eggs), also... read more


    Breeds in rains in Australia, where Sept–Jan in N Queensland, Dec–Mar in Kimberley region. Brood-parasitic, with more than 60... read more


    Resident in lowlands of Malaysia and Thailand, and in much of range elsewhere. S Australian birds... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common in the Philippines; widespread in lowland forest in Sabah; abundant in lower and middle tiers of open forest in New Britain. Although it seems... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Brush Cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus). 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).