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Uncovering the Secrets of the African Cuckoo-Hawk: Plumages Migrations Behaviors and More!

The African Cuckoo-Hawk, also known as Aviceda cuculoides, is a uniquely interesting bird species found in the African region. Bird watchers and nature enthusiasts alike are familiar with the beauty and novelty of this bird, which is characterized by its distinct physical features and captivating behaviors.

In this article, we will explore the identification, plumages, and molts of the African Cuckoo-Hawk, as well as its similarity to other species.




The African Cuckoo-Hawk is typically 46-51cm in length, with a wingspan that ranges from 0.9 to 1 meter. This bird has a unique beak shape that makes it easily identifiable.

Its white or cream-colored eyes are a distinctive feature, as well as its dark, slate-grey color on top and brown streaks on the underside of its body. You will also notice a longish narrow tail, which is black with white tips underneath.

Similar Species:

The African Cuckoo-Hawk has a few similar species, but the most common one it is often confused with is the African Goshawk. The African Goshawk tends to be larger in size with a broad wingspan and is characterized by its white underparts with black streaks.

However, its bill is much plain compared to that of the African Cuckoo-Hawk.


The African Cuckoo-Hawk has three plumages phases, the juvenile, immature, and adult phases. The juvenile phase is characterized by a whitish head and neck, with brown spots on the upperparts and body.

The immatures have a similar pattern, but the brown color is more pronounced. Adult plumage, on the other hand, is characterized by a greyish-black head, wings, and body, with cinnamon-brown underparts.


The African Cuckoo-Hawk exhibits partial molts in which juveniles become immature birds, then to adults. It takes approximately one year for the bird to transition from the juvenile to the adult phase.

During this time, they undergo a series of molts that result in a gradual change in the plumage. In conclusion, the African Cuckoo-Hawk is a fascinating bird species that are easy to identify.

Its physical features make it stand out from other birds, while its plumage phases and molts are uniquely interesting. The next time you are out bird watching, be sure to look for this unique and beautiful bird.

The African Cuckoo-Hawk (Aviceda cuculoides) is a bird species that belongs to the Accipitridae family. Its systematics history is somewhat complex, with various theories proposed by different researchers over the years.

In this article, we will explore the geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to the distribution of the African Cuckoo-Hawk.

Systematics History

The African Cuckoo-Hawk was first described by French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1817. However, it was not until 1826 that it was classified as a separate species.

During the early years, the African Cuckoo-Hawk was classified as a member of the Falconidae family. Later, it was transferred to the Accipitridae family, which includes hawks, eagles, and kites.

Geographic Variation

The African Cuckoo-Hawk has a wide range across the African continent, including Sub-Saharan Africa. This bird species has been recorded in almost all African regions, from Senegal in the west to Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya in the east.

The distribution is mainly within the forest and savanna areas where it feeds on small mammals and birds.


There are four recognized subspecies of the African Cuckoo-Hawk. These include A.c. cuculoides, A.c. sharpei, A.c. castaneiceps and A.c. natalensis.

The A.c. cuculoides is the most widespread subspecies, occurring in almost all of Sub-Saharan Africa. The A.c. sharpei is found in the western and south-western areas of Africa.

The A.c. castaneiceps subspecies is restricted to the forested areas of West Africa, while A.c. natalensis is found in south-eastern parts of Africa.

Related Species

The African Cuckoo-Hawk is a member of the Accipitridae family, which also includes the African Goshawk and the Eurasian Sparrowhawk. These birds share physical similarities, but the African Cuckoo-Hawk is a distinct species with unique characteristics such as their bill shape and tail length.

Other related species include the Long-tailed Hawk (Urotriorchis macrourus) and the Madagascar Cuckoo-Hawk (Aviceda madagascariensis).

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historical changes in the distribution of the African Cuckoo-Hawk have been observed in various parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. These changes have been driven by a combination of natural and human factors.

One of the significant natural causes of distributional changes is climate change. In the recent past, droughts, floods, and other climatic variations have brought significant changes in the bird’s distribution patterns.

Human activities such as deforestation, habitat destruction, and hunting have also contributed to the changing distribution of the African Cuckoo-Hawk. The clearing of forested areas and the expansion of agriculture have reduced the bird’s habitats, thus leading to a decline in population.

Hunting activities that target small mammals and birds, which are the prey of the African Cuckoo-Hawk, have also reduced the bird’s food sources, leading to a decline in population. In conclusion, the African Cuckoo-Hawk is a unique bird species that is widely distributed across Sub-Saharan Africa.

The bird has distinct subspecies and shares physical similarities with other related species. Changes in distribution, driven by natural and human factors, indicate the need for conservation efforts that aim at preserving the bird’s habitats and food sources.

Bird conservation efforts by governments, conservation organizations, and other stakeholders can help ensure the survival of the African Cuckoo-Hawk for future generations. The African Cuckoo-Hawk is a bird of prey that is mainly found in wooded and forested areas, open savannas, and even plantations.

In this article, we will explore the habitat, movements, and migration patterns of the African Cuckoo-Hawk.


The African Cuckoo-Hawk has a wide range across Sub-Saharan Africa, from the western to the eastern part of the continent. This bird species is found in various habitats, including wooded areas, forests, open savannas, and even plantations.

The African Cuckoo-Hawk is known to prefer humid and dense woodland, and it can also be found in mangroves and riverine forest habitats. This bird is generally found in the forest canopy, but it is also known to spend time on forest edges and open savannas where there are scattered trees.

The African Cuckoo-Hawk is mainly found at altitudes of less than 3,000 meters above sea level.


The African Cuckoo-Hawk is a sedentary bird, meaning that they do not travel long distances for migration. However, they may make short-distance movements when food becomes scarce.

These movements might take the form of local migrations, where they move from one area to another and start breeding, and then return to their original habitat after breeding season. During the non-breeding season, the African Cuckoo-Hawk may move from the forests to open areas such as savannas and plantations.

This is usually because food is more abundant in these areas during the non-breeding season.


Although the African Cuckoo-Hawk is mainly sedentary, some seasonal movements can still occur. The bird’s movements are mainly influenced by the availability of food.

During the breeding season, the African Cuckoo-Hawk is mainly found in forested areas, but during the non-breeding season, they may move to more open areas such as savannas. Individuals that inhabit the southern parts of the African continent may remain in their habitat year-round, with no reported migratory movements.

However, Northern populations of the African Cuckoo-Hawk may make short-distance movements to search for suitable nesting sites during the breeding season. The African Cuckoo-Hawk is generally not migratory across the broader parts of its range, and it is suggested that seasonal differences in its distribution are much more due to a varying abundance of suitable prey and seasonal occupied habitats rather than true migratory movements.


The African Cuckoo-Hawk is considered to be of Least Concern on the International Union for

Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, the bird’s population may have experienced a decline due to habitat loss, mainly through deforestation, among other factors.

The bird’s habitats are continuously degraded due to land-use changes, and it may push the bird to the point of population threats, especially if major habitat loss continues. The African Cuckoo-Hawk (Aviceda cuculoides) is a bird of prey that forages mainly in wooded and forested areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In this article, we will explore the diet and foraging behavior of the African Cuckoo-Hawk, as well as its vocalization and sounds.

Diet and Foraging


The African Cuckoo-Hawk is a bird of prey that feeds mainly on small mammals, such as rodents, shrews, and bats, as well as birds such as doves and pigeons. The bird preys on the nestlings of these birds, and occasionally takes eggs.

The African Cuckoo-Hawk is known to be an agile and acrobatic hunter, able to swoop in and capture its prey with great precision. It is an opportunistic feeder, and it can also be found consuming carrion.

The bird will hunt from the tree canopy and then dive to the ground to capture its prey.


The African Cuckoo-Hawk has a diet that is mainly composed of small mammals, such as rodents like Gambia rats, tree rats, and mice, as well as bats. It is also known to feed on a wide variety of birds that range from doves, pigeons, small passerines, and even larger species such as guineafowl.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

The African Cuckoo-Hawk is a warm-blooded bird, which means it is able to regulate its body temperature, unlike cold-blooded reptiles and fish. Like other birds of prey, the African Cuckoo-Hawk has a high metabolic rate and requires a lot of energy to sustain its aerial hunting skills and fast-flight capabilities.

The bird has a highly efficient respiratory system, with air sacs that allow it to extract more oxygen from the air, which is essential to meet the bird’s high energy requirements. This adaptation allows the bird to maintain its body temperature during environmental temperature fluctuations.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The African Cuckoo-Hawk is a bird of prey that makes a series of high-pitched, shrill whistles, often delivered in flight. The birds are often heard vocalizing during courtship displays and territorial disputes.

The whistle is a distinctive and easily recognizable feature of the bird, as other birds of prey are not known for producing these types of vocalizations. The vocalization is interesting as it is produced in both adults and first-year birds, thus, it has been suggested that vocalization play some roles in communication.

In conclusion, the African Cuckoo-Hawk is a unique bird of prey with a diverse diet and an efficient metabolism critical to its survival. The bird’s hunting tactics are highly developed, and their recognizable vocalization is distinct and essential in communication.

The bird continues to face threats to its habitat, and ongoing conservation efforts such as habitat conservation will be critical in ensuring the African Cuckoo-Hawk’s continued existence. The African Cuckoo-Hawk (Aviceda cuculoides) is a bird of prey with fascinating behavior.

In this article, we will explore the locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic behavior, sexual behavior, breeding, and demography of the African Cuckoo-Hawk.



The African Cuckoo-Hawk is an agile and acrobatic bird of prey that has an incredible ability to fly and hunt. The bird typically hunts from the tree canopy while making quick decisive movements and diving to the ground to capture its prey.

The bird has broad, round wings that assist in maneuvering at high speeds, and it is capable of hovering in place.


Self-maintenance behavior comprises grooming activities such as preening that are essential for maintaining a healthy skin and feather condition. The African Cuckoo-Hawk is known to preen its feathers using the beak, ridding themselves of any external parasites.

The bird needs to maintain its feathers as they play a critical role in flight during hunting.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behavior in birds of prey involves territorial defense and aggressive postures. The African Cuckoo-Hawk is known to engage in agonistic behavior when it comes to defending their nests and territory.

The bird is known to discourage intruders to its territory through postures that show aggression, with wings open and ready to attack.

Sexual Behavior

The African Cuckoo-Hawk has a unique and fascinating sexual behavior. Male African Cuckoo-Hawks engage in a courtship display, which involves a series of aerial movements, vocalizations, and behavior aimed at attracting a mate.

The courtship display includes aerial acrobatics, which demonstrate the bird’s hunting and flight capabilities.


The African Cuckoo-Hawk is a seasonal monogamous breeder, and the breeding season is usually from November to July, depending on its geographical location. During the breeding season, both male and female birds make a nest in hidden areas, such as tree tops and other high branches.

The female bird lays one to three eggs, and both male and female birds take turns incubating the eggs. The incubation period lasts for around 30 days.

After hatching, both male and female birds take on parental responsibilities of feeding and caring for the chicks for seven weeks and then they become independent.

Demography and Populations

The African Cuckoo-Hawk is classified as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List due to the lack of significant threats to its populations. However, habitat loss, hunting, and trapping have resulted in a decline in the population of the African Cuckoo-Hawk in specific regions.

To maintain healthy populations of the species, conservationists need to track and monitor the bird’s populations and habitats to identify any threats, especially as these changes come from outside their natural ranges. In conclusion, the African Cuckoo-Hawk is a unique bird of prey with fascinating behavior and a critical role in controlling small mammal and bird populations.

Understanding the behavior of the African Cuckoo-Hawk is key to effective conservation efforts. The bird’s acrobatic abilities make hunting possible, while the annual courtship displays and unique vocalizations provide fascinating insights into the bird’s sexual behavior and communication.

Conservation efforts such as habitat conservation and monitoring can contribute to successful management of the African Cuckoo-Hawk population. The African Cuckoo-Hawk (Aviceda cuculoides) is a unique and fascinating bird of prey that has an important role in controlling small mammal and bird populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This article has explored various aspects of the African Cuckoo-Hawk, including its identification, plumages, molts, systematics history, diet and foraging, sounds and vocal behavior, behavior, breeding, and demography. Understanding the behavior of this bird is essential in ensuring conservation efforts that sustain its populations and habitats.

Conservation measures such as monitoring habitats, population tracking, and hunting regulation laws can significantly contribute to the successful management of their populations, highlighting the need for ongoing conservation work.

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