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Plaintive Cuckoo - BirdForum Opus

ssp threnodes
Photo © by the late Dr Manjeet Singh
Pandamaran-jaya, P. Klang, Malaysia, October 2006

Alternative name: Rufous-bellied Plaintive Cuckoo; Grey-breasted Brush Cuckoo (merulinus)

Cacomantis merulinus


Female rufous morph
Photo © by the late Dr Manjeet Singh
Malaysia, November 2006

18 - 23.5cm

  • Pale grey head, throat and upper breast
  • Dark brown upperparts lightly glossed green
  • Blackish tail with white tip
  • Rufous buff lower breast; querulus has rufous up to throat; lanceolatus has only some rufous wash on lower belly

Females are similar but can also occur in a rufous morph, bright rufous above, barred with black, a plain rufous tail, throat and breast and dark-barred whitish rest of underparts.
Juveniles are variable, some are all dark grey, others rufous.

Similar species

Grey-bellied Cuckoo has all grey underparts and dark grey upperparts. However, the songs are the same and juveniles look very similar.

Singapore, September, 2009


From the eastern Himalayas to southern China through Southeast Asia to the Greater Sundas, and Sulawesi. Resident in Malaysia.
Common to very common in most of its range.


Grey-bellied Cuckoo is sometimes considered conspecific.



Found in the forest edge, scrub and plantations frequenting the crown of tall trees.



Feeds on insects, mainly on hairy caterpillars. Takes also some fruit.
Forages often in canopy.


Breeding season from May to June in Borneo, April to August in northern Thailand. A brood parasitic. Known host species are Ashy Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Zitting Cisticola and Yellow-bellied Prinia. Evicts host's eggs


Resident and seasonally migratory. Present February to October in southwest China, resident in southern parts of range.


Very vocal with it typical 3 note whistle followed by a rapidly descending sequence of slurred whistling notes.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. 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

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