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The Fascinating World of the Black-faced Coucal: Behavior Breeding and More!

Black-faced Coucal: The Master of CamouflageThe Black-faced Coucal, scientifically known as Centropus melanops, is one of the most enigmatic birds of the African continent. Its remarkable ability to camouflage itself makes it hard to spot in the dense undergrowth of forests and thickets.

The purpose of this article is to provide readers with an informative overview of the Black-faced Coucal, covering its identification, plumages, and molts.


Field Identification

The Black-faced Coucal is a medium-sized bird reaching up to 45cm in length. It has a long tail and a bulky body.

The male and female are similar in appearance, although the female is slightly larger and has a thicker bill. It has a dark brown to black plumage which is mainly glossy with a green sheen.

It has a bright red eye with a black face and bill.

Similar Species

One of the Black-faced Coucal’s closest relatives is the White-browed Coucal. The White-browed Coucal has a distinctive white brow and a brownish-orange bill, whereas the Black-faced Coucal’s bill is entirely black.

The Piping Hornbill is another bird that is often confused with the Black-faced Coucal due to its size and similar coloration. However, the Piping Hornbill has a much larger bill and a curved shape.


The Black-faced Coucal has two distinct plumages – the juvenile and the adult plumage. The juvenile is duller and has a brownish-black plumage overall.

Its head is buffy with a black mask, and the eyes are brownish. The juvenile remains in this plumage for approximately eight months and then molts into the adult plumage.

The adult plumage is more striking, with glossy black feathers and a green sheen. Its eyes turn bright red, becoming one of the most distinctive features of this bird.

The bill remains black throughout its life.


The Black-faced Coucal goes through two molting processes, one from the juvenile to the adult plumage and then a partial body molting process. The molting from the juvenile to adult plumage takes place from September to November.

The partial body molting process occurs between January and February, where the feathers on the wings, tail, and head are replaced.


The Black-faced Coucal is one of the most elusive birds in Africa, camouflaging itself perfectly in the dense undergrowth of forests and thickets. Its striking appearance such as its red eyes and black face make it a fascinating sight to see.

With its unique plumages and molting processes, the Black-faced Coucal is a bird worth observing in the wild. Black-faced Coucal: A Systematic Exploration of its History

The Black-faced Coucal (Centropus melanops) is an elusive bird species with a glossy black plumage, green sheen, and a bill and face that are entirely black.

While the species is primarily located in African forests and thickets, it also occurs in other parts of the world, including Madagascar, Comoros, and Mauritius. This article provides an in-depth exploration of the systematics history of the Black-faced Coucal, detailing geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to its distribution.

Geographic Variation

Geographic variation refers to the observable differences between the same species of birds that occur in different geographic regions. In the case of the Black-faced Coucal, different geographic regions have contributed to a slight variation in the bird’s physical appearance.

For instance, Black-faced Coucals that are found in the eastern parts of the species’ range tend to be smaller than their counterparts in central and west Africa.


The geographic variation in the Black-faced Coucal has led to the identification of several subspecies. Based on the location where the birds reside, there are eight different subspecies:


C. m.

melanops: Located in Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. 2.

C. m.

ansorgei: Located in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gabon. 3.

C. m.

ascanius: Located in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana. 4.

C. m.

guanchus: Located in the Canary Islands. 5.

C. m.

fumosus: Located in Madagascar and the Comoros. 6.

C. m.

mauritianus: Located in Mauritius. 7.

C. m.

mesomelas: Located in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. 8.

C. m.

cabindae: Located in Cabinda.

Related Species

The Black-faced Coucal belongs to a larger group of birds known as cuckoos. Within this group, the Black-faced Coucal is part of the Centropodinae subfamily, which is comprised of twenty-two species of coucals.

The closest relatives of the Black-faced Coucal within this subfamily are the white-browed coucals (Centropus superciliosus) and the Blue-headed Coucal (Centropus monachus).

Historical Changes to Distribution

Over time, the distribution of the Black-faced Coucal has undergone several changes. These changes have been partially due to the expansion of human settlements, deforestation, and climate change.

Historically, there have been reports of the Black-faced Coucal occurring in southern Mali and Burkina Faso. However, these reports are no longer valid, and the Black-faced Coucal is now primarily located in western, eastern, and central Africa.

In addition to the changes in the bird’s distribution, there have also been fluctuations in the size of the bird populations. For instance, while the species used to be present in parts of southern Mauritania, the bird has not been seen in that region since the 1980s.

Similarly, in Sierra Leone, there have been documented instances of the Black-faced Coucal being present in the past, but there have been no reports of the bird in recent years.


The Black-faced Coucal is a fascinating bird species with a rich systematics history, including geographic variation, subspecies, and related species. While it was historically present in a more extensive range than it is now, the Black-faced Coucal’s distribution has fluctuated over time due to a variety of factors.

As such, this elusive bird species provides an excellent case study for understanding how the environment and human activities can affect the overall range and population of a bird species. Black-faced Coucal: An Exploration of its


Movements and


The Black-faced Coucal (Centropus melanops) is a bird species that is well adapted to African forests, dense thickets and occasionally savannas.

Its striking black plumage and bright red eyes make it easily identifiable, while its unique features enable it to navigate through the dense undergrowth of its habitat. This article explores in detail the habitat, movements, and migration patterns of the Black-faced Coucal.


The Black-faced Coucal thrives in dense undergrowth, wetlands, and forest edges throughout Africa. It tends to prefer areas with thick vegetation, particularly those that include trees and shrubs.

This bird’s preferred forest habitat usually exhibits a distinct vertical stratification, with a dense shrub layer that is set above an herb layer, and then a tree canopy layer. Coucals choose to live in forest edges since they can easily transition between dense vegetation and open areas as well as being able to access food sources located in the open areas.


The Black-faced Coucal is notoriously difficult to spot due to its ability to blend into the undergrowth, which means that its movements are not well known. However, with the help of telemetry studies, it has been discovered that the bird tends to move in search of food and habitat.

It typically engages in displacement, moving a short distance to find resources and avoiding competition and predation.


The Black-faced Coucal is a non-migratory bird, which means it does not undertake seasonal long-distance movements from one habitat to another in search of resources. It is a resident species, meaning it remains in a specific area all year-round.

However, there have been minor observations of the bird swapping between habitats, such as moving from forest edges to wetlands, seeking areas with better feeding opportunities or more abundant resources. It is the forests dynamic nature, which changes with seasons and weather shifts that can potentially affect the Black-faced Coucal’s movements to access better food sources.

The Black-faced Coucal can be affected by irregular events such as drought and flash floods, as both can severely affect the availability of resources and the characteristics of the habitat leading to an alteration of movement patterns. For instance, an extreme drought can deplete natural water sources and food items, forcing the bird to forage in previously unoccupied areas.

Such movement may be far longer than the bird’s typical foraging range. Also, flash floods may alter the Black-faced Coucal’s habitat drastically by either washing away substantial portions of the undergrowth or changing the availability of food, forcing the bird to move to a new area as well.


In conclusion, the Black-faced Coucal is well adapted to African forests, dense thickets, and occasionally savannas, and particularly thrives in areas with thick vegetation and places that exhibit a distinct vertical stratification. Though known to move in search of food and habitat, movements of the Black-faced Coucal are not well known since it can easily blend into the undergrowth which makes it challenging to monitor.

Finally, unlike most birds, this species uphold ‘stay at home’ for migration and tend to be a resident species, staying in a specific area all year round. However, changes in resource supply and factors such as extreme drought or flash floods can affect the movement of this species.

The Black-faced Coucal: An Insight into

Diet and Foraging, and Vocal Behavior

The Black-Faced Coucal (Centropus melanops) is an elusive, medium-sized bird species that thrives in African forests, dense thickets, and occasionally savannas. Its striking black plumage and bright red eyes make it easily identifiable, while its unique features enable it to navigate through the dense undergrowth of its habitat.

This article delves into the diet and foraging behavior of the Black-faced Coucal, as well as the sounds and vocalization traits characteristic of the bird.

Diet and Foraging


The Black-faced Coucal’s diet mainly consists of terrestrial invertebrates, small rodents, lizards, and snakes. The bird is omnivorous, which means it takes advantage of a wide variety of food sources.

Its unique physical features make it well-adapted to hunting in the dense and complex vegetation of its habitat. This bird feeds on large prey, and it swallow them in pieces by using its strong muscular gizzard to crush the food items.

Prey is caught mainly on the ground and sometimes low shrubs, with the bird using its sharp beak to probe the undergrowth for prey.


The Black-faced Coucal feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates such as snails, insect larvae, and beetles for food. It is also known to hunt for small rodents, lizards, and snakes.

The feeding behavior of this bird could change depending on geographic location. For example, Black-faced Coucals that inhabit Madagascar and Comoros tend to feed on leaves and fruits.

The bird supplements its diet with nectar, fruit, seeds, and small animals like frogs and toads.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Birds tend to maintain a higher metabolism despite generally lower body temperatures than mammals. The Black-faced Coucal is no different and has a general body temperature of around 42.2 , a high water turnover rate and thus needs to maintain a high metabolic rate to sustain its active predatory lifestyle.

This means that the bird requires substantial amounts of food to maintain its body functions and must continuously search for food to sustain itself.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Black-faced Coucal is a shy bird that is well known for its distinctive calls, which consist of a series of loud, deep “chup-chup” sounds, which builds into a slow crescendo. The male is generally more vocal in the species.

The bird behaves like a cuckoo and has a highly developed vocalization function, including calls that are used both during courtship and to defend a territory. Males typically call more frequently than the females, an indicator of high social context.

During mating, the female uses a soft coo-cooing sound while the male responds with “chup-chup” sound. The birds’ calls typically occur in the late afternoon and early evening.

The Black-faced Coucal’s calls are vital in communication within the species and can convey information on feeding, mating activity, and territory defense. The birds are known to make loud calls when they detect other individuals or potential intruders, particularly during the breeding season.

One interesting observation is that the birds may change their calls’ characteristics and style to suit the habitat they are in. For example, birds in forested areas may have slower calls than birds in savanna habitats due to differences in sound intensity propagation.


The Black-faced Coucal’s distinctive physical features and unique calls make it one of African’s most fascinating bird species. The bird’s diet is an omnivorous one, relying mainly on terrestrial invertebrates, small rodents, snakes, lizards, while sometimes feeding on fruits and leaves.

This species has a highly developed vocalization function, with the males typically more vocal than the females, particularly during courtship and to defend a territory. Further studies on the bird’s vocal prowess could help scientists to understand how and why some bird species produce complex vocalizations that help them to navigate through complex environments.

The Black-faced Coucal: An Examination of Behavior,

Breeding, and Demography

The Black-faced Coucal (Centropus melanops) is a medium-sized bird found in forests, dense thickets, and savannas throughout Africa. Its striking black plumage and bright red eyes make it easily identifiable, while its unique features enable it to navigate through the dense undergrowth of its habitat.

This article delves into the behavior of the Black-faced Coucal, including its locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior, as well as digging into its breeding habits and demography.



The Black-faced Coucal is a ground-dwelling species that prefers to move on their legs and feet. It is an agile bird that is well adapted to navigating through dense undergrowth efficiently.

Coucals are known to fly, but they tend to do so when they are threatened or to move between habitats. They have short, rounded wings and a relatively heavy body, which makes flying relatively cumbersome.


The Black-faced Coucal has an exceptional feather structure that resists water and dirt, which helps to combat its muddy environment. They appear to be relatively non-grooming species, since their feathers tend to become bedraggled and disordered, but when necessary, they preen their feathers to keep them healthy and clean.

Agonistic Behavior

The Black-faced Coucal is a very territorial bird, and sometimes individuals might display agonistic behaviours towards intruders. The birds engage in beak-to-beak fights, thereby establishing their ownership of the territories.

Territorial marking is done by calling, singing and forward display of wings and plumage; this is to communicate the threat of aggression. This displays also serves as a communication to potential breeding partners.

Sexual Behavior

During mating, the male Black-faced Coucal is typically the one that seeks out potential partners. The mating begins with a “chup-chup” sound from the male, indicating its readiness to mate.

The male typically calls out to different females to attract them into the territory for mating. Once a female is within the male’s territory, the male will perform courtship displays that may involve the male bringing specific nesting materials to the female.


The Black-faced Coucal’s breeding season varies depending on the region. It usually occurs during the rainy seasons when there is an abundant supply of food and water.

Courtship behaviours are generally intense during breeding season, and the male becomes territorial along its habitat and excludes most individuals that come into the territory. Both males and females assist in building a dome-shaped nest of leaves and grass.

The nesting process often takes as long as 10 days. The female lays usually two to four eggs in a single clutch, which hatches after about 2 weeks.

The chicks are altricial, and both male and female parents take on the responsibility of feeding the young birds.

Demography and Populations

The Black-faced Coucal population has experienced a decline due to habitat loss and degradation, which remain the most significant threats to the species. The bird inhabits very specific ecological niches, and habitat destruction forces them to unsuitable habitats or in extreme cases, leads to death.

There are no current reliable estimates of the global population of this bird, and specific population trends are hard to gather due to their elusive nature.


The Black-faced Coucal’s unique physical characteristics and complex social behaviors make it one of Africa’s most fascinating bird species. The bird is mainly ground-dwelling, has a non-grooming behaviour pattern and is territorial.

Breeding typically occurs during the rainy season when the food supply is abundant, and both males and females assist in building a dome-shaped nest of leaves and grass that helps protect the egg. However, habitat loss and degradation pose a significant threat to the bird’s populations, with human activity being the

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