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African Cuckoo-hawk
Aviceda cuculoides

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: African Baza, African Cuckoo-falcon, African Cuckoo Falcon, Cuckoo-Falcon, Cuckoo-Hawk, West African Cuckoo-falcon.

Aviceda cuculoides
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical. SENEGAMBIA east to ETHIOPIA and south to NAMIBIA and SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: 3 races. A. c. cuculoides: SENEGAL south to NIGERIA and northern ZAIRE, but eastern limits not well defined; A. c. batesi: SIERRA LEONE east to UGANDA and south to northern ANGOLA; A. c. verreauxii: ETHIOPIA, KENYA, and southern ANGOLA south to northern NAMIBIA and through eastern coastal countries to SOUTH AFRICA (Cape). more....

Taxonomy: Forms a superspecies with A. madagascariensis and possibly A. jerdoni, and A. subcristata (Sibley and Monroe 1990), and they are sometimes regarded as conspecific. The species of Aviceda were originally thought to be related to falcons because of their notched bill, but they are probably most closely related to kites. Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2004) found that they constitute an independent lineage clustering near the base of the Accipitridae in the Gypaetus/Neophron assemblage, based on nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene.

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006), wandering during the non-breeding season in response to rainfall regimes (Tarboton 1990, Borrow and Demey 2001). In Liberia, there is a strong influx from December-March, peaking in January (Gatter 1997). Although it is recorded irregularly in various localities in Malawi, Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett (2006) thought that it is probably largely resident there with only local movements. Similarly, it is present in all months in Zambia (Dowsett et al. 2008), although the possibility of movements was suggested by Irwin (1981) and Leonard (1999). more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in moist forests, along forest edges, clearings, and in riparian and suburban habitats, including exotic tree plantations (Eucalyptus). Absent from open and desert areas. During the non-breeding season, birds may occur in large cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria (Tarboton 1990). Moves around in undergrowth like a coucal (Barlow and Wacher 1997), and is secretive and easily overlooked, except during the breeding season. Often found in pairs, but more social during migration (Gatter 1997). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Preys on small vertebrates, especially chameleons and lizards, rodents, chicks in bird nests, and insects, including hairy caterpillars, which make up a large percentage of the diet. Hunts from a perch and prey is captured on the ground while the bird walks around, or as it flops around in the canopy of tall trees, snatching prey items from foliage. Sometimes makes aerial sallies for insects like a flycatcher, but normally swoops down to the ground to capture prey (Barlow and Wacher 1997). Nestlings are fed insects, particularly green grasshoppers (Chittenden 1984). more....

Breeding: Builds an untidy stick nest of broken-off leafy branch ends, which is placed in a well concealed location in the high fork of a tree, often a eucalyptus (Chittenden 1984). Clutch size is usually 2 eggs, which are white boldly spotted with brown (Chittenden op cit.). Both chicks are usually raised. Both parents build the nest and incubate. The male does not feed the female during incubation, but shares brooding and chick-feeding duties. more....

Conservation: Widespread, but probably uncommon throughout most of its range. Probably overlooked to some extent because of its secretive habits. Sympatric raptor species may prey on cuckoo hawks in secondary habitats or tree plantations (Verdoorn 2000). Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Jenkins, A.R. 1997. Cuckoo Hawk. P. 172 in J.A. Harrison et al. (eds.),
  The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South
  Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kemp, A.S. 1994. African Cuckoo-hawk. P. 107 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Steyn, P. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.
Vernon, C.J., and W.R.J. Dean. 2005. African Cuckoo Hawk Aviceda
. Pp. 474-475 in P.A.R. Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan
  (eds.), Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. 7th edition. Trustees of the John
  Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Sites of Interest:
African Cuckoo-hawk photos.

Last modified: 10/17/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: African Cuckoo-hawk Aviceda cuculoides. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 5 Aug. 2020

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