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Jacobin Cuckoo - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Pied Cuckoo; Pied Crested Cuckoo; Black-and-white Cuckoo

Nominate subspecies
Photo © by Rakesh
Ponda, Goa, India, 22 October 2006
Clamator jacobinus

Oxylophus jacobinus


Subspecies C. j. pica
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, India, 28 June 2013

34 cm. (13½ in) A distinctive cuckoo.

  • Glossy black upperparts with a prominent crest
  • White patch on black wings and white tips to black tail
  • White underparts
  • Long graduated tail
  • serratus has two colour morphs, one greyish white to white below with streaked throat, the other (mainly in coastal southern Africa) all glossy black with white wing patch and without white in tail

Juveniles are browner above and yellowish-white below.


Found in most of Africa south of the Sahara and on the Indian Subcontinent.
Recorded in Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Seychelles on migration.
Generally common or not uncommon throughout much of its large breeding range.


Nominate Subspecies Juvenile
Photo © by ragoorao
Mysore, India, 26 October 2009

A member of the order Cuculiformes, which also includes the Roadrunners and the Anis.
It is sometimes placed in the genus Oxylophus.


Clamator jacobinus has three subspecies[1]:


Scrub, wetlands and cultivation. In India mainly in lowlands and hills up to 2000m, in Africa up to 3000m, but mainly below 1500m.


Subspecies C. j. pica
Photo © by Kshounish Sankar Ray
Joka, Kolkata, India, May 2009


It is a brood parasite. Lays its eggs mainly in the rainy season.
Hosts are mainly Turdoides babblers like Common Babbler, Large Grey Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Fulvous Chatterer and Rufous Chatterer. Also Bulbuls (like Cape Bulbul) and Fiscal Shrike.


Diet includes a variety of insects and caterpillars. Takes also eggs of host birds and berries.
Forages mainly in trees and bushes, descends also to the ground.


It is a noisy species, with a persistent and loud pipew pipew pipew and pew pew call.

Recording © by Alok Tewari
Keoladeo National Park, India, July-2016
Two types of calls/song, long and short given by one individual, sitting on a bough of Acacia tree, on the margin of the wetland.

Recording © by Alok Tewari
Song recorded about ten days before the onset of monsoon, when these birds arrive to this area; this individual was looking for caterpillars near a waterbody, about half an hour before sunset.
Village Budhera, Grugram, Haryana, India, 20 June 2023


Photo © by Dr J P Menon
Tamilnadu, South India, 20 March 2020

A migrating species. An intra-African migrant, arriving in breeding areas with rains and abundance of food (eg caterpillars). Nominate birds from India winter in East and Central Africa.


  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. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and J Sargatal, eds. 1997. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4: Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334221

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