The Emerald Cuckoo

25th June 2010

Distribution: The Emerald Cuckoo is sometimes split in different subspecies based on the length of its tail and wings. Ornithologists disagree, however, on wether there are two or three subspecies, and there is no agreement either about the ranges of the described forms.

Generally, this bird is widely distributed in Sub-Saharan Africa and is found in the following countries: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tomé and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, it occurs in the East of the country.

Status: This bird is very common in most of the Southern African Forests. It is rated as Least Concern by the IUCN.
Habitat: The African Emerald Cuckoo is mainly found in light and densely wooded forests, where there are Mopane trees. It typically belongs to the canopy of evergreen and riverine forests, though is has sometimes become an urban dweller as well, being at home in parks, gardens and in old vacated buildings.

Generally, it is a lowland bird throughout West Africa, but in Abyssinia it is a highland form, inhabiting the forest from 2000 to more than 3000m while in Kenya,Tanzania and Uganda it seems almost to be confined to the intermediate altitudes (1000 to 2000m). Farther from the Equator in eastern Africa it inhabits lower country, typically 700 to 1000m in Malawi. In Kwazulu-Natal it is typically a forest bird; but in Mozambique it is sometimes found in thorn and baobab country.

General habits: The Emerald Cuckoo is not a very social bird, and it is mainly seen singly or in pairs in the wild.

Whether this species undertakes long-distance migrations within the African continent is disputed, the problem being mostly that it is difficult to detect this mainly green bird's presence in its evergreen environment and virtually impossible to be certain wether it is present or not at seasons when it is not calling.

Feeding habits: The Emerald Cuckoo is usually seen hunting for food within the tree foliage. It feeds on insects such as butterflies, caterpillars, locusts and ants.

Breeding habits: True to its "cuckoo" reputation, the Emerald Cuckoo is parasitic.

Nest: The Emerald Cuckoo does not built its own nest but rather invades the nest of other birds. If the bird does not find an empty nest it will attack the original nest owner and displace it.

This cuckoo has, notably, been recorded parasitizing the following species: the Yellow-whiskered bulbul, the Bee eater, the Olive bush shrike, the Puffback shrike. Young: The young cuckoos normally hatch before the hosts own eggs and either get rid of their adopted brothers and sisters to be by pushing their eggs out of the nest, or gain an unfair advantage on them by having a head start for feeding and growing. Parental care is left exclusively to the adoptive parents.

Call: The Emerald Cuckoo's deliberate, clear four-note call is ubiquitous seasonally in its forest habitat.

Description:. The Emerald Cuckoo is the most striking species in the cuckoo family. It is 21-23 cm long and weighs around 35 grams. Males are a brilliant metallic green all over except for the lower breast and abdomen, which are bright yellow. The iridescent green feathers have a textured appearance reminiscent of reptile scales. The tail feathers are tipped with white, the eyes are brown-orange, the bill blue-grey or horn coloured.
The female is slightly different, brown above, barred with green, and white below, thickly barred with green.

Did you know: The Emerald Cuckoo is also known as: African Emerald Cuckoo [English]; Mooimeisie [Afrikaans]; Intananja [Xhosa]; uBantwanyana [Zulu]; Smaragdkoekoek [Dutch]; Smaragdkuckuck [German]; Coucou foliotocol [French]; Cuculo smeraldino africano [Italian]; Cuclillo esmeralda africano, Cucu esmeralda [Spanish]; Cuco-esmeraldino [Portuguese]