Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)


French: Coucou gris German: Kuckuck Spanish: Cuco común
Other common names: European Cuckoo, Eurasian Cuckoo

Cuculus canorus


, 1758,



Closely related to C. gularis, with which formerly considered conspecific. Recent mtDNA study, however, suggests that present species is closer to C. saturatus, the two being a sister-clade to C. gularis and C. rochii#R. Populations of EC Asia (Russian Altai and E Sinkiang through Mongolia to N & C China) sometimes separated subspecifically as telephonus on basis of size (smaller than subtelephonus) and pale plumage (like subtelephonus), but birds in this area are not constant in these characters and overlap with other races occurs; range limits of nominate and race subtelephonus in C Asia rather unclear. Other described races include kleinschmidti (Corsica), sardus (Sardinia) and johanseni (Tomsk region of Siberia), all subsumed within nominate; and fallax (C & S China), synonymized with bakeri. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. canorus Linnaeus, 1758 – British Is and Scandinavia E through N Russia and Siberia to Kamchatka and Japan, and S to Pyrenees and Mediterranean, Asia Minor and N Iran, Turkmenia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, N China and Korea; winters in Africa and S Asia.
  • C. c. bangsi Oberholser, 1919 – Iberian Peninsula, Balearic Is, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia; winters in Africa.
  • C. c. subtelephonus Zarudny, 1914 – C Asia from Turkestan E to S Mongolia (W Ala Shan); winters in S Asia and Africa.
  • C. c. bakeri E. J. O. Hartert, 1912 – SC China (W Sichuan) to Himalayan foothills in N India, Nepal, Khasi Hills, Myanmar (including Shan States), NW Thailand, N Laos, N Vietnam and S China; winters to Assam, E Bengal and SE Asia.
  • Also locally in hills of C peninsular India (Vindhyas, Satpuras, etc.), where birds range from pale subtelephonus to dark bakeri#R.

    Descriptive notes

    32–36 cm; male 114–133 g, female 106–112 g. Adult male dark ashy-grey above; tail blackish brown, spotted and tipped with white, unevenly barred black; chin... read more


    Male song a loud burry “cuck-oo”, first note higher and louder; female a bubbling... read more


    Forests and woodlands, both coniferous and deciduous, second growth, open wooded areas, wooded... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, mainly caterpillars, less often dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, crickets, cicadas; beetles in cold weather upon spring arrival... read more


    Season May–Jun in UK and elsewhere in NW Europe, Apr–May in Algeria, Apr–Jul in India and Myanmar. Brood-parasitic: hosts... read more


    Migratory in N of range, arriving in SW Britain mainly Apr–May, when occasionally recorded in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally a common and vocally conspicuous species throughout its range. Densities include 1–2 males/km² in suitable... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus). 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).