Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Common Hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius)


French: Coucou shikra German: Wechselkuckuck Spanish: Cuco chikra

Cuculus varius


, 1797,

Tranquebar, Tamil Nadu, India


This species and H. sparverioides thought to form a clade, with H. bocki as sister#R. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. v. varius (Vahl, 1797) – NE Pakistan (Punjab)#R, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • H. v. ciceliae W. W. A. Phillips, 1949 – Sri Lanka.
  • Descriptive notes

    33 cm; 104 g. Adult ashy brownish grey above, paler on head, tail with 3–5 whitish and black bars and light rufous tip; white below, with pale rufous breast and bars on... read more


    Loud shrieking “brain fé-ver” or “wee-piwhit”, in runs of 4–6... read more


    Wooded country, in deciduous and semi-evergreen forests, gardens, groves of cultivated trees. In... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, mainly caterpillars and cutworms, also grasshoppers, locusts, winged termites, ants; lizards; fruits of wild banyan fig, berries.... read more


    Breeds Mar–Jul in India, Jan–Apr in Sri Lanka. Brood-parasitic: hosts babblers, including Jungle Babbler (Turdoides... read more


    Mostly resident; also partially migratory at higher altitudes and in drier habitats. Single... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common on the plains of India, where characteristic call is amongst the most widely known of bird sounds; also common in Nepal, but rare in Sri Lanka... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2019). Common Hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius). 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 26 May 2019).