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Pheasant Coucal - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Kai Coucal)
Photo © by tcollins
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, December 2007
Centropus phasianinus

Includes: Kai Coucal


53 - 80cm (21-31½ in). A long-tailed, pheasant-like bird.

  • head, neck and underparts all black
  • mantle, upper wings and upper tail streaked and barred brown (most taxa), or all black
  • Non-breeding plumage may differ (see subspecies)
  • eye red
  • bill black

Females are larger and have orange to yellow eyes.
Juveniles more fawn, with paler underparts, brown eye and brown bill, paler below.

Non-breeding plumage
Photo © by Ken Doy
Wellington Point, Queensland, Australia, October 2017


Australia, New Guinea, Timor and islands in Torres Strait.
More common near the coast.


Forms a superspecies with Lesser Black Coucal and Biak Coucal.

Form mui from Timor may possibly represent a separate species. Subspecies spilopterus may be split as Kai Coucal: it has a distinct appearance but its mitchondrial DNA is not very divergent [5].


Photo © by peterpeterpumpkineater
Toogoom, The Fraser Coast, Burnett, Queensland, Australia

There are 7 subspecies [1]:

  • C. p. spilopterus on Kai Islands (southeast Moluccas) [All black with a greenish gloss. Primaries with faint barring]
  • C. p. mui in eastern Timor (Lesser Sundas). [White underparts, head, neck and mantle]
  • C. p. propinquus in northern New Guinea (Mamberamo River to Astrolabe Bay). [Smaller]
  • C. p. nigricans in southeast New Guinea and Yule I. [Yellowish underwing bars narrower than black bars]
  • C. p. thierfelderi in southeast New Guinea and islands in nw Torres Strait [Rufous bars on underwing as wide as or wider than black bars]
  • C. p. melanurus in North and north-western Australia. [Larger than nominate with black bars on rectrices. Non-breeding plumage rufous above with straw-coloured streaks and buff head and underparts]
  • C. p. phasianinus in coastal e Australia (northern Queensland to n New South Wales) [Non-breeding plumage rufous above with straw-coloured streaks and buff head and underparts]


Photo © by kerriebr
Tallai, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, September 2012

Grasslands, and canefields, dense understorey vegetation, particularly grasses, rushes, bracken and sedges, in open forests and woodlands, and around wetlands.


A skulking species, mostly seen on the ground or clambering in thick vegetation.


Diet includes large insects, small animals, frogs, lizards, eggs and chicks of other birds.
Forages for food by walking in low dense vegetation and in cround cover, then runs down its prey.


Breeding season September to May in Queensland, November to March in Kimberley Divison, December to April in Northern Territory.
Nests, which are dome shaped, are hidden in thick grass or sugar cane or in weedy thickets and is a platform of sticks, grass or rushes, lined with leaves and grasses. The male incubates the eggs and feeds the young, with the female helping with feeding. The female may lay several clutches in a season.


They are resident in most of their range, but leave southernmost part of breeding range during winter.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.1)_red. Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.1. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and J Sargatal, eds. 1997. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334221
  4. Birdforum Member observations
  5. Eaton, JA, B van Balen, NW Brickle, FE Rheindt 2021. Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago (Greater Sundas and Wallacea), Second Edition. Lynx Editions. ISBN978-84-16728-44-2

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