Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

Whistling Hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor)


French: Coucou de Hodgson German: Fleckenbrust-Fluchtkuckuck Spanish: Cuco silbador
Other common names: Hodgson's Hawk-cuckoo

Cuculus nisicolor


, 1843,



Formerly treated, with H. hyperythrus, as a subspecies of H. fugax, but recently split#R, with support from subsequent workers#R#R#R, on basis of strong vocal differences from H. hyperythrus (at least 3) and medium differences from H. fugax (2); grey-streaked pinkish breast (2); rusty-buff wing-lining and axillaries (2); and (based on published data#R) a markedly shorter wing than hyperythrus (effect size −2.76; score 2) and markedly shorter bill than fugax (effect size –4.17; score 2). Two long-winged migrants in Peninsular Malaysia possibly represent an undescribed race#R. Monotypic.


Nepal through E Himalayas and S Assam hills to Myanmar, S & E China (S Sichuan S to Yunnan, Guangxi and Guangdong, then E & NE to Jiangsu), Thailand, N & C Laos, Annam and Hainan. Winters S to Sumatra, Java and Borneo.

Descriptive notes

28–30 cm; 69·2–93 g. Smallish hawk-cuckoo; adult has crown and nape grey-black, mantle brownish black, back and rump dark grey, and grey tail with four black bands, the... read more


Gives a shrill, piping gee-whiz, and a long rapid sequence of shrill buzzy whistles, pee, rising up... read more


Breeding birds found in deciduous semi-evergreen, evergreen and secondary forests, as well as pines... read more

Food and feeding

Similar to other hawk-cuckoos, with a penchant for caterpillars, but also recorded taking cutworms, beetles, cicadas, crickets,... read more


Season probably at least May–Sept in NE India, while juveniles have been recorded in N Thailand in Jun–Aug. Brood-parasite that is known to... read more


Summer visitor, resident and altitudinal migrant, but apparently largely or wholly vacates N... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Rare to uncommon over most of range, with apparently no recent records in India, and the species is perhaps only a vagrant to Nepal (only recently... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Whistling Hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor). 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 25 February 2020).