Plaintive Cuckoo

In China, Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus querlus breeds across the southernmost band of provinces from southeastern Tibet to Fujian; resident Hainan. Also breeds in southern Sichuan; recorded Guizhou. Small, common cuckoo of woodlands, cultivated land, and even parks and gardens; small birds often mob it. Parasitizes nests of cisticolas, prinias, and tailorbirds. Adult male has grey head and upperparts (wings slightly browner); grey upper breast. Underparts orange; undertail black with white bars. Female hepatic morph reddish-brown and barred; underparts paler rufous, with more narrow barring of variable extent. Eye reddish in adult male, grey-brown to yellowish in female and juvenile; bill yellow below, black above; feet yellow. Juvenile like hepatic female but always heavily barred. Banded bay cuckoo like hepatic female but has whiter coloration on underparts, pale supercilium, and distinct dark ear patch behind eye. Distinctive call a loud whistle descending in pitch and consisting of usually seven to 12 syllables, the last few hurriedly trailing off. Also produces three-note phrases increasing in pitch and intensity. — Craig Brelsford


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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