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Brush Cuckoo - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Mat & Cathy
Holmes Jungle, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, March 2006
Cacomantis variolosus

Includes: Rusty-breasted Cuckoo


Subspecies sepulcralis (Rusty-breasted Cuckoo)
Photo © by Romy Ocon
Mount Makiling, Laguna Province, the Philippines, December 2004

21–28 cm (8¼-11 cm) Male

  • Grey-brown upperparts
  • Light grey-buff underparts
  • Grey head, neck and breast
  • White tipped tail barred white underneath

Female: two colour morphs

  • Unbarred morph
  • Similar to male
  • Paler buff underneath
  • Pale grey barring across chest
  • Barred morph - less common
  • Streaked/barred upper parts
  • Darkly barred underparts


  • Heavily barred dark brown upperparts
  • Mottled and barred underneath


South-east Asia to Australia.



Photo © by tcollins
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, July 2006

Ten subspecies are recognized in this species[1], and some authorities additionally include Moluccan Cuckoo.

  • C. v. sepulcralis (Rusty-breasted): Southern Thailand, Malay Peninsula, Greater Sundas, Lesser Sundas and Philippines
  • C. v. everetti: Sulu Archipelago (Jolo, Basilan, Tawitawi and adjacent islands)
  • C. v. virescens: Sulawesi, Butung, Tukangbesi and Banggai Islands
  • C. v. infaustus: Northern Moluccas to northern and central New Guinea
  • C. v. tymbonomus: eastern Lesser Sundas (Timor, and possibly east to Tanimbar Island)
  • C. v. oreophilus: Highlands of eastern and southern New Guinea
  • C. v. blandus: Admiralty Islands
  • C. v. macrocercus: Bismarck Archipelago (New Britain, New Ireland and Tabar)
  • C. v. websteri: New Hanover (Bismarck Archipelago)
  • C. v. addendus: Solomon Islands
  • C. v. variolosus: Northern and eastern Australia; winters to Moluccas and New Guinea

sepulcralis (Thailand, Indochina, Philippines, Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, Java) is sometimes accepted as full species, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo.


Coastal mangrove to montane mossy forest up to 2000m. Open woodlands and bushy gardens.


A secretive species.


This is a brood parasite using a wide variety of nests as hosts, such as tailorbirds, sunbirds, fairywrens, honeyeaters and shrikes as host species.
They lay a single egg which varies in colour and design to match the host. Incubation takes about 13 days, the hatchling then ejects any other hatchling and eggs. It fledges after 17-19 days and is cared for by the adults for a further month.


Subspecies sepulcralis, Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Transitioning to adult plumage
Photo © by jweeyh
Singapore, 22 July 2020

Their main diet consists of caterpillars (both hairless and hairy), with the addition of grasshoppers, beetles, bugs, wasps, spiders and snails.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Payne, R. B. (2020). Brush Cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.brucuc1.01
  3. Birds in Backyards

Recommended Citation

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