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Pheasant Coucal - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by tcollins
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, December 2007
Centropus phasianinus

Includes: Kai Coucal


53 - 80cm (21-31½ in). A long-tailed, pheasant-like bird.

  • All black plumage, streaked and barred brown above
  • Non-breeding in Australia rufous above with straw-coloured streaks and buff head and underparts
  • Red eye
  • Black bill

Females are larger and have orange to yellow eyes.
Juveniles more fawn, with paler underparts, brown eye and brown bill, paler below.


Non-breeding plumage
Photo © by Ken Doy
Wellington Point, Queensland, Australia, October 2017
  • nigricans with yellowish underwing bars narrower than black bars
  • propinquus smaller
  • thierfelderi with rufous bars on underwing as wide as or wider than black bars
  • melanurus larger than nominate with black bars on rectrices
  • mui with white underparts, head, neck and mantle


Australia, New Guinea, Timor and islands in Torres Strait.
More common near the coast.


Forms a superspecies with Lesser Black Coucal and Biak Coucal. Form mui from Timor may possibly represent a separate species. spilopterus was formerly accepted as full species, Kai Coucal.


Photo © by peterpeterpumpkineater
Toogoom, The Fraser Coast, Burnett, Queensland, Australia

There are 7 subspecies[1]:

  • C. p. spilopterus on Kai Islands (southeast Moluccas)
  • C. p. mui is known from one specimen from Timor (eastern Lesser Sundas)
  • C. p. propinquus in northern New Guinea (Mamberamo River to Astrolabe Bay)
  • C. p. nigricans in southeast New Guinea and Yule I.
  • C. p. thierfelderi in southeast New Guinea and islands in nw Torres Strait
  • C. p. melanurus in North and north-western Australia
  • C. p. phasianinus in coastal e Australia (northern Queensland to n New South Wales)


Photo © by kerriebr
Tallai, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, September 2012

Grasslands, and canefields, dense understorey vegetation, particularly grasses, rushes, bracken and sedges, in open forests and woodlands, and around wetlands.


A skulking species, mostly seen on the ground or clambering in thick vegetation.


Diet includes large insects, small animals, frogs, lizards, eggs and chicks of other birds.
Forages for food by walking in low dense vegetation and in cround cover, then runs down its prey.


Breeding season September to May in Queensland, November to March in Kimberley Divison, December to April in Northern Territory.
Nests, which are dome shaped, are hidden in thick grass or sugar cane or in weedy thickets and is a platform of sticks, grass or rushes, lined with leaves and grasses. The male incubates the eggs and feeds the young, with the female helping with feeding. The female may lay several clutches in a season.


They are resident in most of their range, but leave southernmost part of breeding range during winter.


  1. Template:Ref-Clements6thAug1#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
  2. BF Member observations

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