Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus)


French: Coucou oriental German: Hopfkuckuck Spanish: Cuco oriental
Other common names: Himalayan Cuckoo

Cuculus saturatus


, 1843,



Recent mtDNA study suggests that present species is closest to C. canorus, the two being a sister-clade to C. gularis and C. rochii#R. Name horsfieldi used for Palearctic populations, but this has been shown to be inappropriate and name optatus reinstated#R. Form optatus/horsfieldi often regarded as a separate species, as in HBW, because the songs of the two were considered distinct; recent evidence, however, suggests differences minor and within range of variation of nominate saturatus. Until recently, C. saturatus (with or without optatus/horsfieldi) treated as conspecific with C. lepidus. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. s. optatus Gould, 1845 – Oriental Cuckoo – European Russia E through Siberia to Kamchatka, S to Kazakhstan, the Altai, Mongolia and N China, Korea and Japan; winters from SE Asia to Australia.
  • C. s. saturatus Blyth, 1843 – Himalayan Cuckoo – Kashmir through S Himalayas, Assam, N & E Myanmar (including Shan States) and Thailand to S China and Taiwan; winters from S Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Philippines S to Lesser Sundas and New Guinea.
  • Descriptive notes

    32–33 cm; 73–139 g (optatus). Adult male dark ashy-grey above, tail blackish brown, spotted and tipped with white; chin to breast ash-grey, lower breast... read more


    Male sings most frequently around dawn and dusk, both from high lookout or in flight with spread... read more


    Canopy of mixed coniferous/deciduous forest, larch taiga, thickets, subtropical woodland near... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, mainly caterpillars (hairless and hairy: Arctiidae, Lasiocampidae, Sphingidae, Saturnidae, Noctuidae), grasshoppers, crickets,... read more


    Breeds during nesting season of small warblers: May–Jun in Kashmir, Mar–Aug in Nepal, May in Fujian (nominate), or Jun–... read more


    Nominate saturatus is a summer visitor to its breeding areas, being present for example in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Numbers depend on maintaining forest habitats for populations of the host species. Common (at least locally) and widespread in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Oriental Cuckoo (Cuculus saturatus). 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 30 March 2020).