Why This Cuckoo Is Lesser Cuckoo

Lesser Cuckoo
Lesser Cuckoo, 26 Aug., Cape Nanhui. (Craig Brelsford)

by Craig Brelsford
Founder, shanghaibirding.com

Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus, non-hepatic adult, 26 Aug. at Cape Nanhui, Shanghai. Photo above. Reasoning behind ID of Lesser Cuckoo:

(1) No suggestion of brighter yellow iris that is characteristic of Common Cuckoo as well as Oriental Cuckoo and Himalayan Cuckoo (darker iris more characteristic of Indian Cuckoo and Lesser Cuckoo)

(2) Dark rump and uppertail coverts contrast little with dark tail, while dark tail and rump contrast markedly with paler back, all pointing to Lesser Cuckoo

(3) On tail, very likely no subterminal black band (as in Indian Cuckoo), pointing again to Lesser Cuckoo

Cuculus sp.
This cuckoo, seen 4 Sept. at Cape Nanhui, Shanghai, has the dark eye, well-defined and widely spaced barring, and small size suggestive of Lesser Cuckoo. (Craig Brelsford)

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Craig Brelsford

Craig Brelsford is the founder of shanghaibirding.com. Brelsford lived in Shanghai from 2007 to 2018. Now back home in Florida, Brelsford maintains close ties to the Shanghai birding community and continues his enthusiastic development of this website. When Brelsford departed China, he was the top-ranked eBirder in that country, having noted more than 930 species. Brelsford was also the top-ranked eBirder in Shanghai, with more than 320 species. Brelsford’s photos of birds have won various awards and been published in books and periodicals and on websites all over the world. Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, published in its entirety on this website, is the most Shanghai-centric field guide ever written. Brelsford is a graduate of the University of Florida and earned a master's in business administration at the University of Liege, Belgium.

One thought on “Why This Cuckoo Is Lesser Cuckoo”

  1. I was wondering whether you could help me out with a cuckoo I saw today on Hokkaido, Japan. The observation can be found here: https://observation.org/observation/285710025/

    As a European with limited experience with Asian birds, I have no experience with Lesser Cuckoo, nor with Oriental. In the field I was mostly focused on the potential of Oriental Cuckoo and hence tried to take photos of the bird’s underwing. My camera miserably failed me, so no underwing photos. Nevertheless, I managed to get some good shots of the bird. The bird did seem smallish, and I did briefly mention the option of Lesser Cuckoo in the field, but without knowing what to look for besides size, I just went for as many photos as I could get.

    After having spent several hours this evening, trying to figure out if this individual fits either Oriental or Lesser (ugh, please no Common Cuckoo), my conclusion is that it seems to be a really good fit for Lesser Cuckoo. I would love to hear your opinion about this bird!

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