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Oriental Cuckoo - BirdForum Opus

Alternative names: Horsfield's Cuckoo; Northern Muted Cuckoo

Photo by Tom Tarrant
Dayboro, South East Queensland, Australia, January 2003
Cuculus optatus

Cuculus horsfieldi


Photo by Ken Doy
Sandy Camp Rd Wetlands, Queensland, Australia, December 2016

30-33cm (11¾-13 in). Very similar to Himalayan Cuckoo.

  • Dark ashy-grey upperparts
  • Blackish brown tail, white spotted and tipped
  • Ashy-grey chin to breast
  • White lower breast and abdomen with black bars
  • White to creamy apricot vent with variable barring
  • Yellow eye-ring

Females are similar but have a rufous tinge to breast. Also has a rufous morph (in both sexes) with rufous rump and uppertail with dark barring.
Juveniles are slate-grey on upperparts with white feather edges, they have a black throat with white bars and have black and white barred underparts.

Similar species

Virtually identical to Himalayan Cuckoo.
Common Cuckoo is very similar but Oriental Cuckoo has broader and more widely spaced black bars below and the bend of wing below is unbarred (brown and white barred in Common Cuckoo). The rufous morph has dark barred rump and undertail-coverts (plain rufous in Common Cuckoo). The call is also different.
Sunda Cuckoo is very similar but smaller.


Breeds from eastern European Russia east through Siberia to Kamchatka, south to Kazakhstan, the Altai, Mongolia and northern China. Also in Korea and Japan.
Winters from southeast Asia to Australia.
Vagrant to New Zealand, western Alaska and western Europe.
Common in its breeding range.


This is a monotypic species.
It was formerly considered conspecific with Himalayan Cuckoo and Sunda Cuckoo under the name Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus.
Some authorities use Cuculus horsfieldi as scientific name.


Found in forests, mainly coniferous and mixed-coniferous. In Sichuan up to 4500m, in the Altai region lower than Common Cuckoo, usually below 1000m.



Feeds on insects, mainly caterpillars.


A Brood parasitic. Known host species are Common Chiffchaff, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit and Japanese Bush Warbler. The nestling evicts the host's eggs and young.


A migratory species.


Four low hoop whistles. Calls harshly gaak-gaak-gak-ak-ak-ak.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. 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

Recommended Citation

External Links

Search the Gallery using the scientific name Cuculus+optatus:

Search the Gallery using the scientific name Cuculus horsfieldi:

Search the Gallery using the common name:

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