Cuculus pallidus Click to enlarge image
Pallid Cuckoo 43.2 Image: AD Trounson
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    pallidus
    Genus
    Cuculus
    Family
    Cuculidae
    Order
    Cuculiformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    28 cm to 33 cm

The Pallid Cuckoo is the most widely distributed of the cuckoos and is found throughout Australia.

Identification

The Pallid Cuckoo is identified by its grey plumage, which is darker on the wings and back, and its broadly barred black and white undertail. The bill is brown, the legs and feet are grey-brown, and there is a bright yellow ring around the eye. No other Australian cuckoo has this colouration. It is a large, slender cuckoo and is somewhat hawk-like in appearance during flight. Young Pallid Cuckoos are mottled with brown and buff above, with a white spot on the nape, and are streaked with grey-brown and white below. As with other species of cuckoo, its call often betrays its presence long before it is seen.

Habitat

The Pallid Cuckoo inhabits most open forests and woodlands, as well as cleared and cultivated open country.

Distribution

The Pallid Cuckoo is the most widely distributed of the cuckoos and is found throughout Australia.



Feeding and diet

The Pallid Cuckoo has a liking for hairy caterpillars, but will take other insects and their larvae. Prey is spotted from low perch and is pounced on, usually on the ground. Some insects are taken from foliage.

Communication

A loud, ascending whistle 'too-too-too..', The call is often repeated incessantly, and gave rise to the name of Brainfever-bird.

Breeding behaviours

The Pallid Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of honeyeaters, woodswallows, whistlers and flycatchers. Common host species include the Willie Wagtail, Rhipidura leucophrys and the Hooded Robin, Melanodryas cuculatta. The female cuckoo removes one of the host's eggs and replaces it with one of her own. The cuckoo egg usually closely resembles the host egg, and the unsuspecting host hatches it along with its own. The cuckoo egg usually hatches more quickly and the young cuckoo instinctively forces the other eggs (or chicks) out of the nest. The cuckoo rapidly outgrows its 'foster' parents, who frantically search for sufficient food to satisfy the demanding young bird.

References

  • Strahan, R. (ed) 1994. Cuckoos, Nightbirds and Kingfishers of Australia. Angus and Robertson/Australian Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.