Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis)


French: Coucou à éventail German: Fächerschwanzkuckuck Spanish: Cuco flabeliforme

Cuculus flabelliformis


, 1801,

Sydney area, New South Wales, Australia


Formerly listed as C. pyrrophanus (or erroneously as C. pyrrhophanus) owing to confusion as to which form had been original model for painting used as basis of name flabelliformis. Levels of differentiation between subspecies appear fairly marked, but range of variability within subspecies is also rather wide; assessment of acoustic evidence needed for any changes to be made in species limits. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. f. excitus Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1907 – mountains of New Guinea.
  • C. f. meeki Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1902 – Solomon Is (Santa Isabel, Kolombangara, Guadalcanal, Bellona; possibly non-breeder on Malaita, Makira and Rennell).
  • C. f. schistaceigularis Sharpe, 1900 – Vanuatu.
  • C. f. pyrrophanus (Vieillot, 1817) – New Caledonia and Loyalty Is.
  • C. f. simus (Peale, 1848) – Fiji.
  • C. f. flabelliformis (Latham, 1801) – E Australia from Cape York to SE Australia and Tasmania; also SW Western Australia.
  • Descriptive notes

    26 cm; 44 g. Adult slate-grey above, tail wedge-shaped, notched white on outer webs; throat grey, breast buff to rufous, undertail with whitish bars (“notching”... read more


    Descending trill, “peeeeer”, also a rising whistle, “p-whee”; female gives... read more


    Mainly tall open forests, rainforest, also open woodlands, roadsides, mangroves, heath. In New... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, mainly caterpillars, also centipedes, spiders. Forages in foliage, also hawks flying moths and ants.


    Breeds Aug–Dec in Australia, Nov–Feb in Fiji. Male courtship-feeds female. Brood-parasitic: hosts mainly domed-nest species,... read more


    Resident in tropics, elsewhere partially migratory or nomadic. Tasmanian breeders move N to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. A common species in much of its range and the most numerous cuckoo in parts of E Australia. Population densities in Australian eucalypt woodland are... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis). 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 17 February 2020).