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Discover the Fascinating World of the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo

Therefore, the article will end with a summary of the most important aspects covered.The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is a fascinating bird species that is native to the Moluccan Islands of Indonesia. This bird has a unique appearance and behavior that sets it apart from similar species.

In this article, we will explore the identification and plumages of this bird, providing informative insights on Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo, Surniculus musschenbroeki.


Field Identification

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is around 22 cm long, with a wingspan of 28 cm. It has glossy black plumage, a slightly curved bill, and a long, graduated tail.

The bird has a unique feather pattern on its back, with white scapulars and black streaks. The underparts are also black, except for some white feathers on the vent.

The bird’s legs and feet are black, and the eyes are brownish-red.

Similar Species

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is only found in the Moluccan Islands. However, it can sometimes be confused with other drongo-cuckoo species, such as the Asian Drongo-Cuckoo.

The Asian Drongo-Cuckoo has a similar appearance but has brown wings with white spots and a relatively shorter tail.



The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo undergoes two molts per year. During the pre-basic molt, which occurs between March and June, the bird replaces all of its feathers except for the primary flight feathers, which are replaced one by one throughout the year.

The pre-alternate molt, which takes place between October and January, changes the bird’s breeding plumage. During this time, the bird replaces its black feathers with glossy black and white ones.


In conclusion, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is an intriguing bird species that is distinguishable by its gloss black plumage, unique feather pattern, and long tail. The bird undergoes two molts per year that contributes to its distinctive appearances during the breeding season.

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is an important species of bird that deserves our attention and protection, and we should strive to learn more about them to ensure their survival.

Systematics History

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo, scientific name Surniculus musschenbroeki, was first described by the ornithologist Hermann Schlegel in 1866. The species was named after the Dutch naturalist Pieter Bleeker’s assistant, Michiels, a collector who brought the bird from the Moluccas to Schlegel in Leiden.

Geographic Variation

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo has a widespread geographic range, occurring in the Moluccan Islands of Indonesia. Due to its distribution, the bird might have an intraspecific variation in terms of morphology and genetics.


Currently, there are three subspecies recognized for the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo. All of which have minor variations in their appearance.

The subspecies Sturmii occurs in the northern Moluccas, and its distinguishing feature is its chin area that has reddish-brown feathers. In contrast, Griseiceps is found in the central and southern Moluccas and has a blue-grey forehead, and the female has less white feather patterns on its feathers.

Lastly, Musschenbroeki is found only on the Waigeo Island in Western Papua and has a more significant white pattern on its vent area.

Related Species

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo belongs to the cuckoo family, Cuculidae, and the subspecies Sturmii was previously classified as a subspecies of the Dark Hawk-Cuckoo (Hierococcyx bocki). However, after further studies analyzing molecular genetic data, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo has earned its species level classification.

Historical Changes to Distribution

There have been little records concerning distribution changes for the species, but there are a few isolated reports from places outside of the Moluccan Island. In the early 20th century, some sporadic records from Sumatra, Java, and West Papua has documented the bird’s presence in the area.

However, these records are too scarce and cannot be used to conclude with certainty if the bird has moved from their home range or if there was an error in the report. Experts believe that the bird’s range was probably stable throughout history, and much of its present distribution is due to colonizing some of the uninhabited islands within the range of the species.

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo’s outlook in the future remained securely stable as long as their habitats and food sources remain unmoving and unaltered.


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is an interesting bird species that attracts attention from naturalists and researchers. Despite having an extensive distribution range in Indonesia Archipelago, scientific information on the geographical variation for the species is scarce.

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo has earned its species-level classification and has three recognized subspecies. Reports and data on historical changes in its distribution are insignificant, and the bird’s outlook in the future remains positive as long as their habitats remain stable.


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo occupies a variety of habitats ranging from lowland rainforests to montane forests with elevations of up to 1500 m. They also inhabit forest edges, heavily degraded secondary forests, and scrubby vegetation.

The species is an opportunistic feeder, which is why it is most commonly found in habitats with a range of prey.

Movements and Migration

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is a non-migratory bird. This means that it stays in its range year-round.

However, the bird is known to make irregular movements depending on food availability.

During the breeding season, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo becomes more vocal.

The male birds will perform a courtship display where they will flutter their wings and make a variety of vocalizations to attract a mate. Once the pair bond is formed, the birds will construct their nest, which usually takes the form of a shallow cup built in small shrubs or trees.

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is known to parasitize the nests of other bird species to ensure their young’s survival. This behavior is common in cuckoo species, and Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is no exception.

The birds usually lay one egg per host nest and will abandon their egg-laying duties once the eggs have been deposited. The foster parents do all the work of incubating and rearing the chick.

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo chick hatches first, and it will often throw the host’s eggs and chicks outside the nest to ensure that the host parents only focus on taking care of their young chick. The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo chicks grow rapidly and are often ready to fledge the nest within two weeks after hatching.

After leaving the nest, the young bird will call out for the host parents, who will continue to feed and care for it until it becomes self-sufficient.


In conclusion, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo occupies a variety of habitats and is an opportunistic feeder. The bird is non-migratory and makes irregular movements depending on food availability.

During the breeding season, male Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo will display courtship behavior to attract a mate, and the species has a unique nesting behavior where it parasitizes the nests of other bird species to ensure its young’s survival. Overall, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is an interesting bird species with unique behavior that is worth studying and protecting.

Diet and Foraging


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is an insectivore and consumes a variety of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, termites, and ants. It forages for food by perching on a tree and scanning its surroundings for any prey movements.

Once it has located its prey, it will fly out to snatch it from midair, or it may search for prey on the ground.


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo’s diet is adapted to the seasonal changes in the availability of prey. During the breeding season, when the availability of insects is highest, the bird feeds mostly on caterpillars.

This high protein diet is essential for the bird’s growth, development, and reproduction. During the non-breeding season, when the availability of insects is lower, the bird shifts to a diet of termites and ants.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is a small bird with a high metabolism, which means that it needs a lot of energy to maintain its body temperature. However, the bird has adapted to regulate its body temperature through behavioral changes, such as perching under the shade during the hottest parts of the day to avoid overheating.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is mostly heard before being seen. It produces a variety of vocalizations, including a loud and metallic “ting-ting-ting” that lasts for 1 to 1.5 seconds.

The sound is often described as similar to the sound that a metal pipe makes when it hits a hard surface. The bird’s calls are used for communication with other birds of the same species, and it is more vocally active during the breeding season than at any other time of the year.

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo’s crest-raising behavior is a part of its vocal display that is used for signaling purposes. The bird raises its crest by moving its head forward and then backward while making vocalizations.

This display is used to establish dominance during confrontations with other birds and to signal to its mate during courtship.


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is a small bird with a high metabolism that feeds on a variety of insects. Its diet varies depending on the season, with caterpillars being the main source of food during the breeding season and termites and ants being common during non-breeding time.

The bird has adapted to regulate its body temperature through behavioral changes and is an active communicator during the breeding season with its unique vocalizations, including the distinctive “ting-ting-ting” call. Overall, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is an interesting bird species with unique characteristics worth studying and protecting.



The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is an active bird that moves around through flying and hopping. The bird has a relatively short tail, which makes it challenging to fly long distances continuously, so it tends to fly in short bursts.

By hopping and moving from tree to tree, the bird can easily navigate through its surroundings.

Self Maintenance

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is a neat and clean bird species. The bird spends a considerable amount of time preening and taking care of its feathers.

It uses its beak to straighten and clean its feathers, ensuring that they remain in good condition.

Agonistic Behavior

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is known to display a range of agonistic behaviors when confronted by other birds. These behaviors include raising its crest to signal dominance and vocalizations to assert its territory.

The species has also been observed engaging in physical displays, such as bill-snapping and wing-flapping, during confrontations.

Sexual Behavior

Male Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo uses their vocalizations and crest-raising display in courtship and mating. Male birds will perform a courtship display by fluttering their wings and making a variety of vocalizations to attract a mate.


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is known to parasitize the nests of other bird species to reproduce. The bird will lay its eggs in the nests of other birds, such as the Rufous Fantail and the Glossy Swiftlet, and leave the care for its offspring to the foster parents.

To increase the chances of successful parasitism, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo will typically lay a single egg in each nest, and the egg coloration is adapted to match the host’s egg. Once the eggs hatch, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo chicks will use a variety of signals to convince the host parents that they are the most significant and deserving of their attention.

This includes noises and movements that mimic the host chicks. The foster parents will then feed and take care of the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo chick until it is ready to leave the nest.

Demography and Populations

The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo populations have not yet been thoroughly studied, and there is little information available on the species’ current population size and trends. Some reports suggest that the species is relatively common and widespread throughout its range.

Despite being widespread and relatively common, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo’s population is vulnerable to habitat destruction and are sensitive to changes in their environment. Conservation organizations must continue to monitor the species and work on conservation initiatives to ensure that the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo and other bird species receive the protection they require.

Such conservation actions will potentially benefit the entire fauna of the Moluccan Islands.


The Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo has unique behavior, including its parasitic nesting behavior, its vocalizations for communication with other birds, and displays used to signal dominance and during courtship. The bird is also an important part of the ecosystem and requires protection to ensure its continued survival.

The population of the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo requires close monitoring to better understand factors that influence its population size and long-term trends. These data can then inform conservation efforts for the species and other threatened bird species in the region.

In conclusion, the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo is a fascinating bird species that displays unique behavior and characteristics that set it apart from other birds. The bird is an insectivore with a high metabolism and adapts to seasonal changes in its diet.

Its communication skills, nesting behavior, vocalization, and displays used during courtship are just some of the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo’s unique behaviors. The species is also sensitive to habitat destruction, emphasizing the importance of conservation initiatives to preserve the species for future generations.

The more we understand the behavior and ecology of the Moluccan Drongo-Cuckoo, the better we can work towards the conservation and protection of this and other bird species.

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