Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Coppery-tailed Coucal (Centropus cupreicaudus)


French: Coucal des papyrus German: Kupferschwanzkuckuck Spanish: Cucal colicobrizo

Centropus cupreicaudus


, 1896,

Okavangoland and south Angola


Thought to be part of a clade with C. senegalensis, C. monachus and C. superciliosus#R. Has been treated as conspecific with very similar C. monachus. Validity of race songweensis has been disputed, and species often considered monotypic. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. cupreicaudus Reichenow, 1896 – Angola through DRCongo, Zambia, R Okavango and Caprivi Strip, and extreme W Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls) to W Tanzania and C Malawi.
  • C. c. songweensis Benson, 1948 – S Tanzania and N Malawi.
  • Descriptive notes

    42–50 cm; male 272 g, female 299 g. Adult violet-glossed black from forehead to mantle; back and wings reddish brown; uppertail-coverts faintly barred, tail blackish... read more


    Series of 10–20 low-pitched, descending notes, in “water-bottle” pattern, similar... read more


    Swamps, marshes, river-bank vegetation, thickets, long grass. Lowlands to 1250 m.

    Food and feeding

    Large insects, including grasshoppers, also snails, crabs, fish, frogs, snakes, lizards, small birds. Scavenges for dead fish; tears open... read more


    Breeds Sept and Nov–Feb in Zambia, during rains. Nest a coarsely built dome of fresh grass and twigs, lined with leaves, with side... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. In general, a rather sparsely distributed bird; however, it is locally common, for instance in marshes along streams and rivers near upper R Zambezi.

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Coppery-tailed Coucal (Centropus cupreicaudus). 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).