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7 Fascinating Facts About the Bay Coucal of Sulawesi

Have you ever seen a Bay Coucal, Centropus celebensis? This magnificent bird is a species of cuckoo that belongs to the family Cuculidae.

Bay Coucals are endemic to Sulawesi, an island located in Indonesia. Bird enthusiasts are always on the lookout for this elusive bird due to its unique features and remarkable behavior.

In this article, we will explore how to identify a Bay Coucal and differentiate it from similar genera. We will also discuss its plumages, including the molts it undergoes.


Field Identification

Bay Coucals are large, black birds that measure around 44 cm in length. They have a prominent curved bill, which is grey to black in color.

The bill is also quite large, which differentiates it from other cuckoo species found in the same habitat. Bay Coucals also have a long tail, which can be seen when they fly.

The tail is black and has white spots on the tips of a few feathers. The wings of the Bay Coucal are short and rounded, and they have white bars that can be seen when in flight.

Similar Species

Bay Coucals can be easily confused with the Biak Black Cuckoo, Coccyzus melacoryphus. However, the Biak Black Cuckoo has a smaller bill, and its tail is shorter than that of the Bay Coucal.

The wings of the Biak Black Cuckoo are also longer and more pointed, lacking the distinctive white bars found in Bay Coucals.


Bay Coucals have two molts, the juvenile molt and the adult molt. During the juvenile molt, Bay Coucals have a dark brown plumage, which starts to turn black as the bird matures.

The head and neck of the Bay Coucal are covered in feathers that look like a turtle’s shell, with a glossy greenish-blue to blackish color. The adult Bay Coucal has a striking black plumage with a purple or green iridescence that shows in good lighting conditions.

The underside of the Bay Coucal is less glossy, with dark brown feathers. Bay Coucal also has pale eyes, which add to its distinctive appearance.

In conclusion, the Bay Coucal, Centropus celebensis, is a unique bird species that is a joy to see in the wild. Its unique features distinguish it from similar cuckoo species found in the same habitat.

The molts it undergoes add to its intriguing character and add to its appeal. We hope this article has been informative for budding bird watchers and enthusiasts alike.

Systematics History

The Bay Coucal, Centropus celebensis, was first described by the biological researcher J.E. Gray in 1860. However, it was later reassigned to the metacoccyx genus and named Metacoccyx celebensis.

This classification was later reversed, and the Bay Coucal was finally placed in the Centropus genus in 1888.

Geographic Variation

Bay Coucals are endemic to Sulawesi, an island province in Indonesia. They inhabit a vast range of habitats, including dense forests, secondary growth, plantations, and savannas.

Due to the varied habitats, the Bay Coucal shows a considerable degree of geographic variation.


There are three recognized subspecies of the Bay Coucal, which differ from one another in regards to their plumage and range. Centropus celebensis celebensis is the nominate subspecies and has the widest distribution range.

It is found in the northern and central regions of Sulawesi. Centropus celebensis dichrorhynchus is found in the central mountainous area of Sulawesi.

It is distinguished by its shorter bill and less iridescent plumage, which appears more brownish. Centropus celebensis alter is found in the southernmost part of Sulawesi.

It has a distinctively longer bill than other subspecies and darker, more iridescent plumage.

Related Species

Bay Coucals are closely related to other members of the Centropus genus, which are distributed throughout the Old World Tropics. Bay Coucals share similarities in their body shape, size, and behavior with other Centropus species, such as the Letter-winged Coucal, Centropus ateralbus, and the Black Coucal, Centropus menbeki.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historically, Bay Coucals were found throughout Sulawesi, including the Talaud and Sangihe islands. Recent studies have shown that Bay Coucal distribution has undergone significant changes in the past few decades.

This was mainly due to habitat loss and degradation, stemming from unsustainable forestry practices, land conversion for agriculture, urbanization, and mining activities. Bay Coucals have lost up to 50% of their natural habitat due to human activities, leading to a significant decline in population numbers.

The population decline has been so dramatic in some regions, such as the central uplands, that the species has been granted critically endangered status. The species’ distribution range has decreased in the past few decades, with some populations being entirely eliminated from specific locations.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect and conserve the remaining Bay Coucal populations in Sulawesi. These efforts include habitat restoration and management, conservation education, law enforcement, and ecotourism development.

Ecotourism has been identified as a viable source of income for local communities, thereby promoting sustainable use of natural resources. In conclusion, the Bay Coucal, Centropus celebensis, is an endemic bird species found throughout Sulawesi, an Indonesian island province.

The species exhibits considerable geographic variation in plumage and range. The Bay Coucal has undergone significant population decline and range reduction in the past few decades due to habitat loss, degradation, and unsustainable human activities.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect and conserve remaining populations, emphasizing habitat restoration and management, conservation education, law enforcement, and sustainable ecotourism development.


Bay Coucals are found throughout Sulawesi, an Indonesian island province known for its unique flora and fauna. They inhabit a variety of natural and human-influenced habitats, including dense forests, secondary growth, plantations, and savannas.

Bay Coucals are most commonly found in lowland rainforests with closed canopies, where they hunt large insects, rodents, and small vertebrates. Due to their reliance on closed-canopy forests, Bay Coucals are considered an indicator species for forest health and biodiversity.

The Bay Coucal can also be found in habitats influenced by human activity, such as forestry plantations or agricultural landscapes. However, there is a notable decrease in population density in degraded habitats, which highlights the importance of preserving natural habitats for this species.

Movements and Migration

There is little information on the movements and migration patterns of Bay Coucals. It is believed that they are non-migratory and that their movements are mainly confined to a small range within their chosen habitat.

Juvenile birds are known to move into new territories to establish their own range, but adult birds tend to remain in one area for their entire lives. When Bay Coucals are forced to move from their original territory due to habitat loss, it is reported that they will migrate short distances to locate new suitable habitat.

Due to their low reproductive rate, Bay Coucals are susceptible to local extinctions caused by habitat loss and degradation. Their reluctance to move from their chosen territory adds to their vulnerability.

Conservation efforts aimed at preserving and restoring forested habitats are crucial to the long-term survival of Bay Coucals. The presence of this predator species also indicates a healthy ecosystem that supports a variety of prey species.

In conclusion, Bay Coucals inhabit a variety of habitats in Sulawesi and are reliant on closed-canopy forests for their survival. The species is non-migratory, with their movements mainly confined to their chosen range.

Habitat loss and degradation, especially in closed-canopy forests, pose a significant threat to the survival of Bay Coucals. Conserving natural habitats and restoring degraded ones is essential for the long-term survival of Bay Coucals and the ecosystem as a whole.

Diet and Foraging

Bay Coucals are carnivorous birds that hunt a variety of prey species, including large insects, small rodents, frogs, and lizards. They are known to hunt alone or in pairs, using their strong beaks to kill their prey.

Bay Coucals have also been observed eating berries and fruit, although this does not constitute a significant portion of their diet.


Bay Coucals are well adapted for hunting, with their sharp, curved beaks and strong legs which allow them to catch and hold onto prey. They are also known to use their beaks to dig on the ground for insects.

Bay Coucals are relatively slow in flight, relying mostly on their legs for hunting, so they prefer to ambush their prey from relatively stationary positions. One common hunting technique involves perching on a high tree branch and swooping down to attack prey when it comes within striking distance.


Bay Coucals have a diverse diet. Some of the most common prey species consumed by Bay Coucals include large insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets.

They also hunt small rodents, such as rats and mice, as well as reptiles, such as lizards and snakes. Bay Coucals have been known to feed on carrion, such as decomposing animals and larvae, but this is believed to be less common in their diet.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Bay Coucals have a unique ability to regulate their body temperature in a fast and energy-efficient manner. They regulate their body temperature through panting, which allows them to dissipate heat and cool down quickly.

This feature is essential for Bay Coucals, as they are active during the day when temperatures can become very high in their habitat. Bay Coucals also have an efficient metabolism that allows them to thrive in their environments.

They have a relatively high metabolism, which means that they need to consume a significant amount of food to fuel their activities. This high metabolism allows them to be efficient hunters and boosts their chances of survival.

Sounds and Vocal



Bay Coucals use a variety of calls to communicate with each other and establish territories. Their calls are loud and distinct, making them easily identifiable in the dense underbrush of the rainforest.

Their most common call consists of a series of low-pitched notes that gradually increase in volume and intensity. This call is used by both males and females to communicate with each other, establish territories, or announce their readiness to mate.

Bay Coucals also use calls to scare off potential predators or warn other members of their species of potential danger. Their calls are also thought to play a role in social bonding and finding potential mates.


Bay Coucals are an intriguing species of bird that have adapted well to their natural habitat in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their unique feeding habits, ability to regulate their body temperatures, and distinct vocalizations add to their appeal and make them a fascinating subject for further study.

As habitat loss and degradation threaten their survival, it is essential to conserve their natural habitat and preserve the biodiversity of Sulawesi.


Bay Coucals are fascinating bird species with unique behavioral patterns. Their behavior and social interactions allow them to thrive in their natural habitats despite the threat of habitat degradation and climate change.


Bay Coucals are primarily terrestrial, using their strong legs to hunt and walk around their habitats. However, they are also agile climbers, capable of scrambling up trees in search of food or to gain a vantage point to survey their territory.

Bay Coucals are relatively slow in flight, and they only take to the air when necessary. Flight is usually restricted to short distances, such as gliding or flapping from one treetop to another.

Self Maintenance

Bay Coucals are fastidious birds when it comes to their grooming habits. They keep themselves clean and in good condition by preening their feathers regularly.

Preening allows Bay Coucals to remove dirt, parasites, and damaged feathers. Agonistic


Bay Coucals exhibit agonistic behavior, or aggressive behavior, when they feel their territory or nest is threatened.

This behavior involves a wide range of behaviors, including loud vocalizations, head bobbing, bill clacking, and aggressive flying towards the intruder. Agonistic behavior is more common during the breeding season when competition for resources, mates, and nesting sites is high.



Bay Coucals exhibit unique sexual behavior during the breeding season.

Breeding pairs establish territories that they defend aggressively from other Bay Coucals.

Males court females by displaying distinctive plumage, vocalizing, and providing nesting materials. Once the female has chosen a mate, they begin to build a nest together.


Bay Coucals breed during the rainy season, which coincides with an abundance of prey items. The breeding season starts in November and runs through to February, with eggs being laid in December and January.

Breeding pairs build a large cup-shaped nest in the underbrush. The nest is made from twigs, leaves, and other plant materials and lined with softer materials such as feathers.

Females lay two to three eggs in each clutch, which are incubated by both parents for a period of about 21 days. Once the eggs hatch, both parents take turns feeding and nurturing the chicks, which fledge at around three weeks of age.

Demography and Populations

Bay Coucals are distributed throughout Sulawesi, Indonesia, but their populations are declining rapidly due to habitat loss and degradation. The species is listed as critically endangered, with only 2,500 to 9,999 mature individuals estimated to be left in the wild.

Bay Coucal populations are vulnerable to habitat loss due to deforestation, agricultural expansion, and mining activities. Climate change, which may alter the availability of prey and nesting resources, is another significant threat to this species.

Conservation efforts are necessary to preserve the Bay Coucal and their habitat. Current conservation measures focus on habitat protection and restoration, law enforcement, and conservation education.

Conservation efforts may also include the development of sustainable ecotourism practices to promote the importance of the species and its habitat to local communities. The Bay Coucal, Centropus celebensis, is a fascinating bird species that exhibits unique adaptations and behaviors.

Their distinctive plumage, foraging habits, vocalizations, and breeding behavior make them a significant and noteworthy species endemic to Sulawesi, Indonesia. Like many bird species, Bay Coucals are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, making conservation efforts essential to their survival.

Protecting and preserving their habitat is not only crucial for the Bay Coucal but for the entire ecosystem and biodiversity of Sulawesi. As we continue to learn more about the Bay Coucal and its role in the ecosystem, we are reminded of the importance of valuing and preserving these remarkable species for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

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