Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus)


French: Coucal faisan German: Fasanspornkuckuck Spanish: Cucal faisán

Cuculus phasianinus


, 1801,

New South Wales, Australia


Appears to be part of a clade which includes also C. violaceus and C. bernsteini#R. Previously thought to be closest to C. chalybeus, C. bernsteini and C. spilopterus. C. spilopterus often included as a race of present species. Timor form mui may represent a separate species, but to date is known only from a single specimen and a handful of observations, so that its distinctiveness (including possibility of its being polymorphic) requires confirmation. Seven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. p. mui Mason & McKean, 1984 – Fuiloro Coucal – Timor (Fuiloro Plateau).
  • C. p. propinquus Mayr, 1937 – N New Guinea.
  • C. p. obscuratus Mayr, 1937 – N coast of SE New Guinea from Huon Gulf to Milne Bay; D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago (Goodenough I, Fergusson I).
  • C. p. nigricans (Salvadori, 1876) – SE New Guinea, including Yule I.
  • C. p. thierfelderi Stresemann, 1927 – S New Guinea and islands of NW Torres Strait.
  • C. p. melanurus Gould, 1847 – N & NW Australia.
  • C. p. phasianinus (Latham, 1801) – Pheasant Coucal – E Australia.
  • Descriptive notes

    53–80 cm; in N New Guinea male 205 g and female 300 g, in Australia male 337 g and female 495 g. Long-tailed pheasant-like bird. Adult male all black, streaked and... read more


    Dull booming series of “hooh” notes, falling and then rising in pitch, “coo-coo-... read more


    Dense riverine vegetation, long grass, rank herbage, coastal heathlands, margins of swamps,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods, especially insects (grasshoppers, stink-bugs, mantids, stick insects, caterpillars), Sesarma mangrove mud crabs,... read more


    In Australia, breeds Sept–May in Queensland, Nov–Mar in Kimberley Division, Dec–Apr in Northern Territory. Nest a covered... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common near the coast, uncommon in semi-arid areas, scarce in arid zone. This species has become uncommon in Pilbara Region, Western Australia, where... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. (2020). Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus). 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 3 April 2020).