Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus)


French: Coucou plaintif German: Klagekuckuck Spanish: Cuco plañidero
Other common names: Rufous-bellied Plaintive Cuckoo

Cuculus merulinus


, 1786,

Panay, Philippines


Often considered conspecific with C. passerinus. Proposed race subpallidus (Nias) is synonymized with threnodes, and celebensis (Sulawesi) with nominate. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. m. querulus Heine, 1863 – Assam and Lower Bengal E to S China (including Hainan), and S through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to N Peninsular Malaysia; some migrate S to peninsular India and SE Asia.
  • C. m. threnodes Cabanis & Heine, 1863 – S Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra (with islands of Nias, Siberut and Enggano) and Borneo.
  • C. m. lanceolatus (S. Müller, 1843) – Java and Bali.
  • C. m. merulinus (Scopoli, 1786) – Sulawesi and Philippines.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–23·5 cm; 19·5–32 g. Adult male nominate has pale grey head, rest of upperparts and wings dark grey and slightly glossed, some rufous on wing-... read more


    Very vocal during breeding season, occasionally calling at night, but can be more or less silent at... read more


    Open woodland, secondary forest, lowland rainforest, freshwater and peatswamp forest, mangroves,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, mainly hairy caterpillars (Saturniidae) but also hairless ones (Notodontidae), beetles, bugs, termite soldiers, other soft-bodied... read more


    Breeds May–Jun in Kalimantan, Mar–Sept (peak Jul) in India, May–Jul in Myanmar; fledglings Jun–late Aug, Dec–... read more


    Resident and seasonally migratory. In Nepal an occasional visitor or vagrant, late Apr to Aug; in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common throughout most of range, for instance in E India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, SE China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Greater Sundas (especially Java and Bali... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus). 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 9 April 2020).