Pallid Cuckoo

Quick Facts

Length: 30 cm
Height: -
Weight: 89 grams
Colour: -
Habitat: Most open forests and woodlands, also cleared and cultivated open country
Food: Hairy caterpillars, insects and their larvae
Predators: -
Status: Secure in all states and territories in Australia
Pallid Cuckoo

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.

The similar sized Oriental Cuckoo, has conspicuous black and white barring on the lower breast and belly and is generally darker in plumage. It is also considerably scarcer in Australia.

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

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

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.

The Pallid Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nests of honeyeaters, woodswallows, whistlers and flycatchers. Common host species include the Willie Wagtail and the Hooded Robin. 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.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Thursday 18th July, 2013
BirdLife Australia -


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