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African Cuckoo In Uganda

African cuckoo

“Cuculus gularis”

What to know about the African cuckoo in Uganda

The African Cuckoo is closely related to the Common Cuckoo, and both species were formerly conspecific. They have very similar appearance but quite different calls. This species is a parasitic cuckoo and it parasitizes mainly the nests of the Fork-tailed Drongo. It has length 32cm and weight 110g. Like numerous cuckoos, it feeds primarily on hairy caterpillars caught in the foliage. It is usually found in open woodland and Acacia savanna. The African Cuckoo is an intra-African migrant frequently seen in lake Mburo national park in Uganda.

How does the African cuckoo in Uganda look like?

The adult is a large grey cuckoo very similar to the Common Cuckoo. Only some morphological details are making the difference. The African Cuckoo has more extensive yellow bill base, barred (not spotted) outer-tail, and more finely barred vent and under tail-coverts. It lacks the rufous morph. The adult has dark ashy-grey upperparts, including wings and tail, but the rump is paler grey. The longish tail shows broad white barring on upper outer rectrices. On the underparts, chin, throat and breast are pale grey. Rest of underparts is whitish with well-spaced dark grey barring, less conspicuous towards lower belly and vent. Flanks are finely barred. The under tail is barred with variously spaced markings. The underwing is dark grey with broad white bars. The female differs by the rufous-tinged throat and upper breast. Both adults have grey head and greyish-white chin.  The bill is yellow with black tip. The eyes are yellow, surrounded by paler yellow eye ring. Legs and zygodactylous feet are yellow.  The juvenile has mostly blackish upperparts scalloped with white. Head and underparts are heavily barred black-and-white. It has broad white spots on tail.

How does the African cuckoo in Uganda sing and make calls?

The African Cuckoo differs from the Common Cuckoo by its quite different call, more hoopoe-like “hoop-hoop” but slower and often with more accentuated second syllable. This call is also described as weak and forced dove-like “ou-ou” lacking the initial “c” of the Common Cuckoo’s call.

How does the African cuckoo in Uganda feed?

The African Cuckoo feeds mainly on hairy caterpillars, but it also takes various insects such as Coleoptera, Orthoptera and winged termites. For the latter, it exploits the emergences which occur during the early rains. It forages among the foliage in trees and shrubs, but sometimes, it can be seen flying to the ground to catch a prey. Like numerous Cuculidae, it also takes eggs and nestlings of other bird species.

How does the African cuckoo in Uganda breed

The courtship displays are unknown, but they are probably similar to those of the Common Cuckoo. The male bobs the head or bows the body, with wings open and drooped while the tail is raised and fanned. This posture displays the plumage pattern. In addition, the male sometimes offers a caterpillar to the female.

The African Cuckoo is an intra-African migrant. It breeds during the rainy season. It arrives with the rain and disappears after breeding. Information about dispersion or migration is currently lacking.

How does the African cuckoo in Uganda nest?

The African Cuckoo is a brood parasite, it does not build a nest and the female lays her egg in the nest of other species, and especially the Fork-tailed Drongo. The female sneaks into the host’s nest while the male distract the owners. She often removes the host’s eggs before laying her own egg.

How does the African cuckoo in Uganda reproduce?

The male distracts the hosts while the female lays her egg in their nest. She lays one whitish egg with brownish spots or blotches, similar to the eggs of the Fork-tailed Drongo. She may remove the existing eggs before laying. The hosts incubate the egg during 11-17 days. The cuckoo chick may eject existing eggs or chicks from the nest if its mother did not make it. The foster parents feed it and it fledges 20-23 days after hatching.

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