African Cuckoo-Hawk (Aviceda cuculoides)

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[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Aviceda cuculoides | [authority] Swainson, 1837 | [UK] African Cuckoo-Hawk | [FR] Baza coucou | [DE] Kuckucksweih | [ES] Baza Africano | [NL] Afrikaanse Koekoekswouw


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Aviceda are rather small to medium-sized kites (usually called Cuckoo-Falcons or Bazas). Their wings quite long and pointed, the tail is of moderate length and not forked. The edge of the upper mandible has two clearly indicated tooth-like protrusions. They have short, stout legs and feet with well developed talons. Two or three feathers of the nape are elongated as a crest, which is very pronounced in the Black Baza (Aviceda leuphotes) but barely noticeable in the Madagascar Cuckoo-falcon (Aviceda madagascariensis). Adults of the genus are often boldly patterned and barred; the young less so.

Physical charateristics

The adult male of the nominate race is generally colour blackish brown above, slate on the crown and mantle, with white bases to the feathers, and a chestnut patch at the ase base of the neck. The upper tail coverts are black, tipped and barred with white. The tail is black, with three broad grey bars and a white tip. The throat, cheeks and upper breast are dove grey. The remainder of the underparts are white, with broad chestnut bars on the lower breast and belly, sometimes reaching the flanks. Under wing coverts are chestnut, the rest of underwing being white, barred with black. The cere is greenish yellow, the legs and feet yellow, the eyes bright yellow, and the bill and claws black.
The female differs from the male in being browner all over, with little slaty wash; the chestnut bars on underside broader and paler than the male.
Immatures are dark brown above, with many feathers edged with buff, and the bars on tail are brownish grey. There are large irregular spots on the underside; the barring on the underside develops as the bird matures.
Aviceda cuculoides verreauxi differs from the nominate race in having white bars on the chestnut under-wing coverts, and in being much larger.

wingspan min.: 85 cm wingspan max.: 95 cm
size min.: 38 cm size max.: 42 cm
incubation min.: 32 days incubation max.: 33 days
fledging min.: 30 days fledging max.: 42 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


Africa : West, Central, Southcentral, Southeast. The African Cuckoo Falcon is found in the Southern half of Africa, including the forested areas of West Africa, in forest and wetter savannah country. There are two races, Aviceda cuculoides cuculoides, occurring north and west of a line through north Angola and the Congo, and Aviceda cuculoides verreauxi to the south and east.


Uncommon throughout its range and only rarely seen, this is a bird of secretive, skulking habits in dense woodland or second growth forest mixed with cultivation, only occasionally emerging into open ground.


In display it calls from a perch and sometimes performs display flights high above the ground. These flights consist of undulating swoops and dives, with steep sideways banking exposing the chestnut underwing coverts. Several individuals may soar together above forest, calling to one another. The nest is built high in a tree, well concealed in dense foliage. It is made of sticks, roots and grasses, lined with green leaves. A new nest is constructed every year, construction taking a month or more. Two or three pale greenish blue eggs, spotted and streaked with brown and chestnut and with lilac markings, are laid. It times its breeding to coincide with the rains when insects are plentiful. Incubation lasts for about a month and the young fledge about 6 weeks later. Both sexes care for young.

Feeding habits

Insects and lizards; occasionally small birds. Prey is caught either in trees or on the ground.

Video African Cuckoo-Hawk


copyright: Juan Sanabria


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
African Cuckoo-Hawk status Least Concern


Resident in most areas but some seasonal movement into coastal Kenya to breed in Apr-Nov and into Transvaal highveld after breeding in May-Aug. May move locally within deciduous woodland in response to fluctuations in chameleon and insect numbers, leading to irregular influxes in areas of E and S Africa. Small-scale seasonal movements have also been detected in W African savannas.

Distribution map

African Cuckoo-Hawk distribution range map

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