Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Common Squirrel-cuckoo (Piaya cayana)


French: Piaye écureuil German: Eichhornkuckuck Spanish: Cuco ardilla común
Other common names: Squirrel Cuckoo (when lumped with Piaya mexicana)

Cuculus cayanus


, 1766,



Until recently treated as conspecific with P. mexicana. Proposed race stirtoni (from SW Guatemala to NW Costa Rica) is synonymized with thermophila, inexpectata (W Venezuela) with mehleri, cearae (Ceará, in NE Brazil) with pallescens, and boliviana (C Peru to N Bolivia) with obscura. Thirteen subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. thermophila P. L. Sclater, 1860 – Middle American Squirrel-cuckoo – E Mexico (E San Luis Potosí and S Tamaulipas S to Veracruz, Yucatán and Isthmus of Tehuantepec on Gulf coast S to near Tehuantepec City) through Central America to Panama and NW Colombia.
  • P. c. nigricrissa (Cabanis, 1862) – Western Squirrel-cuckoo – W Colombia (occurring E to slopes of C Andes), W Ecuador, and NW Peru (Tumbes).
  • P. c. mehleri Bonaparte, 1850 – NE Colombia E of Gulf of Urabá to Magdalena Valley and along W slope of E Andes, E in coastal Venezuela to Paria Peninsula.
  • P. c. circe Bonaparte, 1850 – Venezuela S of L Maracaibo.
  • P. c. cayana (Linnaeus, 1766) – Amazonian Squirrel-cuckoo – E & S Venezuela through the Guianas and S to N bank of lower Amazon.
  • P. c. insulana Hellmayr, 1906 – Trinidad.
  • P. c. mesura (Cabanis & Heine, 1863) – Colombia E of Andes, E Ecuador, and NE Peru (N of R Marañón).
  • P. c. obscura E. Snethlage, 1908 – C Brazil S of Amazon from R Juruá E to R Tapajós and S to upper Ji-Paraná, E Peru and N Bolivia.
  • P. c. hellmayri Pinto, 1938 – Brazil S of Amazon from Santarem E to mouth of Amazon, and coast of N Maranhão.
  • P. c. pallescens (Cabanis & Heine, 1863) – E Brazil.
  • P. c. cabanisi J. A. Allen, 1893 – SC Brazil (C Mato Grosso and Goiás to N São Paulo).
  • P. c. macroura Gambel, 1849 – SE Brazil to Paraguay, NE Argentina and Uruguay.
  • P. c. mogenseni J. L. Peters, 1926 – S Bolivia to NW Argentina.
  • Descriptive notes

    40·5–50 cm; male 73–137 g, female 76–129·4 g (race thermophila), female 134 g (macroura). Large, slender, long-tailed and... read more


    A three-note dry rolling “hic-a-ro” or “geep-kareer”, a “chick-kaw... read more


    Tropical lowland evergreen forest, tropical deciduous forest, old secondary forest, gallery forest... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, mainly caterpillars (green or hairy, including the venemous Eupseudosoma involutum), grasshoppers, stick insects (up to... read more


    Breeds in Costa Rica in both dry and wet seasons, Jan–Aug but mainly Apr–Jun; in Panama May–Jun; in Colombia Jan–... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common to very common throughout most of its extensive range, e.g. common in many parts of Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Common Squirrel-cuckoo (Piaya cayana). 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).