Family Cuckoo Roller (Leptosomidae)

Least Concern

Cuckoo Roller (Leptosomus discolor)


French: Courol vouroudriou German: Kurol Spanish: Carraca curol

Cuculus discolor


, 1783,



Race gracilis sometimes considered a separate species on basis of differences in size, plumage and voice; intermedius, however, appears intermediate in plumage and may thus link the other two. Proposed race anjouanensis synonymous with intermedius. Males of all three taxa are very similar in plumage, but females distinctive. Female gracilis differs from female intermedius in having pale buff head sides, and underparts with relatively sparse dark brown broad spots vs chestnut-tinged head sides to breast shading paler on belly to buffy vent, with broader, blacker spots more resembling broken bars (2); crown barred blackish and chestnut-buff vs crown with blackish-green, glossier cap, and upperparts flecked pale greenish grey-brown vs darker, more completely glossy greenish-brown (2); song of male slightly higher and more fluid, less fluty, the last note longer and more complex (1+1 = 2). Female intermedius considerably smaller than female nominate (score probably 2), but one specimen (AMNH 643742) same size; tail generally more rufous, but this seemingly variable (ns), as is the amount of dark feathering on crown and upperparts (ns); song of male nominate distinct, with several differences#R involving pitch, number and duration of syllables, in at least two versions of song (allow 3); moreover, nominate much less confined to forest habitats#R than is either of the other two taxa (score 1). Thus, all three taxa score 6 and further evidence of their distinctiveness seems likely to result in their recognition as full species. Research urgent, as populations of gracilis and intermedius very small. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. d. gracilis A. Milne-Edwards & Oustalet, 1885 – Grand Comoro Cuckoo-roller – Ngazidja (Grand Comoro), in NW Comoro Is.
  • L. d. intermedius E. J. O. Hartert & Neumann, 1924 – Anjouan Cuckoo-roller – Ndzuani (Anjouan), in C Comoro Is.
  • L. d. discolor (Hermann, 1783) – Madagascar Cuckoo-roller – Mwali (Mohéli) and Maore (Mayotte), in WC & SE Comoros, and Madagascar.
  • Descriptive notes

    38–50 cm; 160–301 g. Highly distinctive, although in flight the broad wings and slow pace might briefly bring to mind a raptor. Male of nominate race has grey... read more


    Vocalizations distinctive, loud and far-carrying, and probably given seasonally (as well as... read more


    Occupies a wide variety of habitats, including rainforest, littoral forest, spiny bush-forest,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Largely carnivorous, eating a variety of invertebrates (mostly insects, including locusts, caterpillars, stick-insects, mantises,... read more


    Season thought to start mid Sept in Comoros, Nov (probably Sept–Dec) in Madagascar, but probably much longer on Anjouan at least,... read more


    Probably largely sedentary, but capable of moving between different habitats, having been directly... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread in suitable habitat, although in some area (e.g. arid SW Madagascar and same island’s central plateau) patchily distributed and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Goodman, S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Cuckoo Roller (Leptosomus discolor). 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 18 September 2019).