Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis)


French: Grand Coucal German: Heckenkuckuck Spanish: Cucal chino
Other common names: Indian Coucal, Southern Coucal (parroti), Kangean Coucal (kangeangensis)

Polophilus sinensis


, 1815,

Ning Po, China


Analysis of mtDNA suggests that this species is closest to C. nigrorufus#R, the two being sister-taxa#R. Has sometimes been treated as conspecific with C. andamanensis. Kangean Is race often spelt kangeanensis, but correct original spelling is kangeangensis; race anonymus sometimes misspelt as anonymous. Birds from Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and Palawan sometimes placed together in a separate subspecies, eurycercus. Some authors#R have suggested that race parroti be awarded species status on account of voice and distinctive juvenile plumages (indicating that the difference between sinensis and parroti is not in mantle colour as illustrated in HBW); same authors note also that voice of bubutus is very distinctive. All taxa, however, are here retained in C. sinensis until further research sheds light on vocal differences, although kangeangensis is notable for having all black in plumage replaced by pale buff-brown (in two different morphs). Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. s. sinensis (Stephens, 1815) – Pakistan (Sind, Punjab) and Kashmir through N India (Himalayas and Gangetic Plain) to Bengal, Sikkim and N Assam and foothills in Bhutan, and on to S & SE China (E Yunnan, Guizhou, Guanxi, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang).
  • C. s. parroti Stresemann, 1913 – peninsular India and Sri Lanka.
  • C. s. intermedius (A. O. Hume, 1873) – Bangladesh and S Assam E through Myanmar to SC China (S Yunnan and Hainan), and S to Thailand, Indochina and Peninsular Malaysia.
  • C. s. anonymus Stresemann, 1913 – SW Philippines (Basilan and Sulu Is).
  • C. s. bubutus Horsfield, 1821 – W Philippines (Palawan, Bugsuk, Balabac, Cagayan Sulu) to Borneo, Sumatra, Nias I and Mentawai Is, and S to Java (including Madura) and Bali.
  • C. s. kangeangensis Vorderman, 1893 – Kangean Is (N of Bali).
  • Descriptive notes

    47–56 cm; male 208–270 g, female 275–380 g. Adult sinensis black, glossed blue to purplish, back and wings chestnut, long and broad black tail,... read more


    Song a series of deep “hoop” notes, full song running down and up the scale, followed... read more


    Secondary forest, tall grassland, thickets, bamboo, scrub near cultivation, paddyfields, cover near... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small mammals (mice, hedgehog), lizards, snakes, frogs; insects (caterpillars, grasshoppers, katydids, beetles, larvae of rhinoceros... read more


    Breeds in rains: mainly Jun–Sept in N India, practically all year in Peninsular India and Sri Lanka (peak Mar–Apr, Sri Lanka),... read more


    Resident. Occasionally disperses; one heard once on Serfung, Krakatau, in 1919, years after... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common almost everywhere throughout its expansive range, and very common in some areas, notably in much of India and Thailand. On... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis). 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 24 February 2020).