Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis)


French: Coucal rufin German: Bengalenkuckuck Spanish: Cucal bengalí

Cuculus bengalensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Bengal, India


Molecular data indicate that this species is closest to C. grillii and C. viridis#R#R. Has been considered possibly conspecific with C. grillii, but marked differences in morphology and, apparently, vocalizations. In the past was thought to be conspecific with C. toulou. Race philippinensis sometimes synonymized with javanensis, but appears to merit recognition#R. Proposed race chamnongi (Thailand and S Vietnam) not certainly separable from nominate. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. b. bengalensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – India and Nepal through Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand to Indochina.
  • C. b. lignator Swinhoe, 1861 – S & SE China, Hainan and Taiwan.
  • C. b. javanensis Dumont de Sainte Croix, 1818 – Malay Peninsula S through Sumatra, Riau and Lingga Archipelagos, Bangka and Belitung to Java, Bali and Borneo, and SW Philippines (Calamian Group, Palawan, Balabac, and Sulu Archipelago).
  • C. b. philippinensis Mees, 1971 – Philippines (except Calamians, Palawan and Sulu Is).
  • C. b. sarasinorum Stresemann, 1912 – Talaud and Sangihe Is, Sulawesi and Lesser Sundas.
  • C. b. medius Bonaparte, 1850 – Moluccas.
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 31 cm (India, nominate), 34 cm and 79·3–92 g (Philippines and Peninsular Malaysia, javanensis); female 34 cm (India, nominate), 38 cm and 132... read more


    In India, double series of notes, “whoot, whoot”, repeated, then series of “... read more


    Tall grass, reedbeds, swamps and marshlands, bamboo thickets, second-growth forest, open-country... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including grasshoppers (Acrididae), locusts, crickets, mantids, beetles, Hemiptera, hairy caterpillars, also spiders, lizards (... read more


    Breeds in India after onset of rains in Jun, nests May–Sept; in Myanmar nests in the rains, in Malay Peninsula nests Dec–Jul,... read more


    Resident. Perhaps only a summer visitor locally, e.g. in Nepal. Race sarasinorum has... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). A common resident of open country, if somewhat local in some areas. Rapidly colonizes new habitat where forests are cleared,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis). 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).