Himalayan Cuckoo   Cuculus saturatus


  • Cuculus : latin word for “Cuckoo”
  • Saturatus : Latin word for Richly coloured derived from satura- rich

 Vernacular Names: Cachar: Dao hoo hoo, Assam: Hoo kuku, Lepcha: Tong ting vyang

 Distribution in India: Breeds in Himalayas and North East India; Winter Visitor to Andaman  and Nicobar Islands. 

Description: Size of 32–33 cm; Wt. of 73–139 g. The adult male is dark ashy-grey above, tail  is blackish brown, spotted and tipped with white; chin to breast are ash-grey, lower breast and abdomen are white with black bars, vent is white to creamy apricot with somewhat variable barring; eyering is yellow, iris is yellow to brown (brownish orange in male), bill is black with orange-yellow to greenish-yellow base, legs and feet are yellow to orange. The female is similar, with rufous tinge to breast. It also occurs in a rufous (hepatic) morph, in which rump and uppertail-coverts are rufous with dark barring, and has dark-barred rufous head, upperparts, wings and tail  tipped white, off-white head-sides to breast, finely dark-barred, and rest of underparts are white with black barring. The juvenile is slate-grey above with white feather edges, throat is black with white bars, below barred black and white, iris is brown. It has two plumage morphs (grey and hepatic) in both sexes; iris is creamy grey to blackish brown, and bill has duller-coloured base.

Habitat: It is found in canopy of mixed coniferous/deciduous forest, larch taiga, thickets, subtropical woodland near streams, open wooded areas and orchards, often in hill country, also in coniferous forest and in birch) above tree-line . It is found from 1500–4500m in breeding season. In winter comes down to 1000m.

Food habits: It eats insects, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, large beetles, cicadas, mantids, stick-insects, flies, spiders, also wasps, and ants. It also eats some fruit, pine shoots and needles, even eggs removed from other birds’ nests and chicks in them. The gut contents are removed from caterpillars prior to consumption. It forages arboreally, but sometimes comes to ground, on forest floor or in more open areas.

Breeding habits: They breed during nesting season of small warblers: May–Jun in Kashmir and Mar–Aug in Nepal. They are brood-parasites. Their hosts are mainly small warblers of genus Phylloscopus, e.g., Western Crowned Leaf-warbler, Blyth’s Leaf-warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Eastern Crowned Leaf-warbler and Pale-legged Leaf-warbler. They usually lay just one egg per nest of the host. The incubation and Feeding of nestlings are done by hosts.