Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Lesser Cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus)


French: Petit Coucou German: Gackelkuckuck Spanish: Cuco chico
Other common names: Asian Lesser Cuckoo

Cuculus poliocephalus


, 1790,



Has been thought to be closely related to C. rochii, the two sometimes being treated as conspecific; DNA data, however, do not support a sister relationship between them#R. C. lepidus has been placed in present species, but available evidence does not support that treatment. Monotypic.


N Pakistan#R and Kashmir E through Himalayan foothills to Khasi and Naga Hills, N Myanmar and N Indochina, and across China (including Taiwan and Hainan, where seems to be resident#R#R) to Ussuriland, Korea and Japan. Winters in Sri Lanka and E Africa.

Descriptive notes

22–27 cm; 40–59 g. Adult male slate-grey above, tail and uppertail-coverts contrastingly blackish, tail with white tip and white spots at sides; bend of wing... read more


Loud, husky chattering song, “eat your chóky pepper”, comprising six notes at 1... read more


Forests, both broadleaf and pine, scrub, second growth; in Ussuriland in broadleaf forests of... read more

Food and feeding

Insects, mainly caterpillars (geometrids, noctuids), also beetles, hymenoptera, mantids.


Breeds May–Jul. Brood-parasitic: hosts small warblers, wren-babblers (Pnoepyga) and shortwings (Brachypteryx) in... read more


Migratory, entire breeding population apparently moving SW or S to wintering grounds. Winters in... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Few data on abundance; common to fairly common locally in Nepal. Populations depend on maintaining habitat and numbers of its host species. Not... read more

Recommended citation

Payne, R., de Juana, E. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Lesser Cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus). 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 27 February 2020).