Family Cuckoos (Cuculidae)

Least Concern

White-browed Coucal (Centropus superciliosus)


French: Coucal à sourcils blancs German: Weißbrauenkuckuck Spanish: Cucal cejiblanco

Centropus superciliosus

Hemprich and Ehrenberg

, 1828,

#R Arabia and Ethiopia


Thought to be part of a clade with C. senegalensis, C. monachus and C. cupreicaudus#R. Form burchellii might be recognized as a full species (with fasciipygialis as a race), although intermediates (apparent hybrids between forms with a supercilium and forms without) are known in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and N Malawi; difference in plumage suggests that adults of N forms have retained a juvenile-like plumage (with white supercilium and brown crown and hindneck), while adults of S form burchellii have a glossy black head and neck derived from an additional, final plumage following the streaked plumage in which some individuals breed#R. Race fasciipygialis was thought probably a variant of burchellii in HBW, but subsequently accepted as taxonomically distinct#R. Birds from Socotra and SW Arabia sometimes separated as race sokotrae, but seem to be generally indistinguishable from nominate superciliosus#R. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. s. superciliosus Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1828 – White-browed Coucal – Socotra and SW Arabia (Tihama); E Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and W Somalia S through Kenya and NE Uganda to NE Tanzania.
  • C. s. loandae C. H. B. Grant, 1915 – Uganda, SW Kenya and Tanzania (including Zanzibar and Pemba) through SE DRCongo, N Malawi and Zambia to Angola, N Namibia, N Botswana and N Zimbabwe.
  • C. s. fasciipygialis Reichenow, 1898 – extreme SE Tanzania (with Mafia I), E Zimbabwe and Mozambique (S to Beira).
  • C. s. burchellii Swainson, 1838 – Burchell's Coucal – E Botswana, SE Zimbabwe and S Malawi S to E & S South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    36–42 cm; male 160 g, female 180 g. Adult has head dark brownish with broad white supercilium, mantle blackish, streaked whitish, back rufous-brown, rump finely barred... read more


    Song a series of 10–20 notes, descending in pitch and increasing in tempo, like water... read more


    Riverside, dense bush, moist vegetation, tall rank grass, marshes, thickets, shrubby once-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects (mainly grasshoppers, crickets and locusts, beetles), spiders, snails, crabs, lizards, snakes, frogs, mice, small birds, including... read more


    Breeds Mar–Jun (mainly Apr–May) in Ethiopia, all months but mainly in wet seasons in Kenya (Apr–Jul and Aug in Ngong area... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common in much of its range, and the commonest coucal in E Africa. Density of 1 pair every 0·5 km in marshy habitat in Transvaal. Generally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Payne, R. & Bonan, A. (2019). White-browed Coucal (Centropus superciliosus). 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 11 December 2019).