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Brush Cuckoo - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies C. v. variolosus, Brush Cuckoo
Photo © by Mat & Cathy
Holmes Jungle Nature Park, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
31 March 2006
Cacomantis variolosus

Includes: Australian Brush Cuckoo; Rusty-breasted Cuckoo; Sulawesi Brush Cuckoo; Sunda Brush Cuckoo


C. v. sepulcralis, Female, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo
Photo © by zykoay
Kek Lok Tong, Perak, Malaysia
11 August 2013

21–28 cm (8¼-11 cm) Male

  • Grey-brown upperparts
  • Light grey-buff underparts
  • Grey head, neck and breast
  • White tipped tail barred white underneath

Female: two colour morphs

  • Unbarred morph
  • Similar to male
  • Paler buff underneath
  • Pale grey barring across chest
  • Barred morph - less common
  • Streaked/barred upper parts
  • Darkly barred underparts


  • Heavily barred dark brown upperparts
  • Mottled and barred underneath


C. v. sepulcralis, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Juvenile
Photo © by Avian Seeker
Singapore, 2 September 2012

South-east Asia to Australia.


C. v. sepulcralis, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Transitioning to adult plumage
Photo © by jweeyh
Singapore, 22 July 2020

This is a polytypic species[1]. Different authors raise various combinations of these to full species status (e.g. Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Sulawesi, Sunda and Australian Brush Cuckoos).

Some authorities additionally include Moluccan Cuckoo in this species.


Clements recognizes these subspecies[1]:

C. v. sepulcralis, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Adult
Photo © by Romy Ocon
Mount Makiling, Laguna Province, the Philippines, December 2004
  • C. v. sepulcralis (Rusty-breasted Cuckoo wide sense or Sunda Brush Cuckoo): Southern Myanmar (Tenasserim) and Southern Thailand south through the Thai-Malay Peninsula, the Greater Sundas, the western Lesser Sumbas (east at least to Sumba and Flores), and the Philippines
  • C. v. virescens (Rusty-breasted Cuckoo wide sense or Sulawesi Brush Cuckoo): Sulawesi, Butung, Tukangbesi and Banggai Islands
  • C. v. everetti: Sulu Archipelago (Jolo, Basilan, Tawitawi and adjacent islands)
  • C. v. major: Northern Moluccas (Morotai to Obi)
  • C. v. tymbonomus (Australian Brush Cuckoo): eastern Lesser Sundas (Timor, and possibly east to Tanimbar Island
  • C. v. infaustus (Australian Brush Cuckoo): New Guinea and most satellite islands
  • C. v. obscuratus: Numfor (Cenderawasih Bay)
  • C. v. variolosus (Australian Brush Cuckoo): Northern and eastern Australia; winters to Moluccas and New Guinea
  • C. v. macrocercus: Bismarck Archipelago (New Britain, New Ireland and Tabar)
  • C. v. websteri: New Hanover (Bismarck Archipelago)
  • C. v. fortior: D'Entrecasteaux Archipelago
  • C. v. addendus: Solomon Islands
  • C. v. blandus: Admiralty Islands

Subspecies C. v. oreophilus is now considered a synonym of infaustus.

C. v. sepulcralis (Thailand, Indochina, Philippines, Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, Java), with or without C. v. virescens (Sulawesi etc) is sometimes accepted as a full species, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo.

Alternatively, C. v. sepulcralis together with C. v. everetti may be split as Sunda Brush Cuckoo and C. v. virescens as Sulawesi Brush Cuckoo.

Subspecies infaustus, tymbonomus and variolosus may be treated as distinct Australian Brush Cuckoo.


Coastal mangrove to montane mossy forest up to 2000m. Open woodlands and bushy gardens.


A secretive species.


This is a brood parasite using a wide variety of nests as hosts, such as tailorbirds, sunbirds, fairywrens, honeyeaters and shrikes as host species.
They lay a single egg which varies in colour and design to match the host. Incubation takes about 13 days, the hatchling then ejects any other hatchling and eggs. It fledges after 17-19 days and is cared for by the adults for a further month.


Their main diet consists of caterpillars (both hairless and hairy), with the addition of grasshoppers, beetles, bugs, wasps, spiders and snails.


Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., P. C. Rasmussen, T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, A. Spencer, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2023. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2023. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Payne, R. B. (2020). Brush Cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.brucuc1.01
  4. Birds in Backyards

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1