Pictures & Write-up on Coucal  
Return To Index page Malkoha Cuckoo Koel

Coucal share the same family  with the Cuckoos, traced from the sub family of Centropodinae and the genus Centropus. They are different from the Old World Cuckoo who are brood parasites. In fact, in contrary with the habits of the Cuckoo, the Coucal have their sex role reversed.  The male provide most of the parental care.

Within the group are a wide array of birds which have lots of common looks yet also with great differences in colors. This is a short list of "other" birds of this group and those found in Malaysia are:-

17 species of Cuckoos 1 Asian Koel
6 species of Malkohas 3 species of Coucals

World wide there are 30 species of Coucal and 4 of them are found in South-east Asia. In Malaysia, we get to see 3 types.

Short-toed Coucal Centropus rectunguis
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis

Another unique point about Coucal is its looks. The bird have the head and bill like that of a crow, then the long tail feathers of a pheasant. In earlier days until now, many people has named the bird as a Crow-Pheasant. It is a bulky bird, glossy black in color, very obvious Chestnut wings followed by a long and broad black tail.

Both male and female look alike. They are ground birds that prefer tall grasses or low shrubs. Like Junglefowl, Coucal would rather walk and only flies to get away from danger. Found singly most of the time, their food consist of large insects, caterpillars, snails and lizards. Breeding season is February - September.

Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis

The origin of the Lesser Coucal was traced back to a wide area stretching from western India, south China and the Sundas. It is a resident now in many South Asian Country.

Most times I have seen Lesser Coucals alone, only rarely seen 2 of them in the same area. These birds prefers tall grasses mixed with low shrubs in dry land. Wetlands with creepers interspersed with grasses.

Best time to see them is in the morning. It is their habit to basked in the sun. For this routine, they will choose an exposed spot, usually the tip of tall grasses or low exposed branches of shrub. Also the only time they are out in the open to get the heat from the morning sun. The only way is see the bird in full view. Alternatively, to wait in ambush for them to come out to an open area to forage. If there is such a preferred spot.

In normal times, the Lesser Coucal is spotted readily on most open grasslands. However, catching a glimpse and flashes of moments are all I could get for the sight of the bird. They hunt among the dense, using their powerful bills to catch and kill their prey.

Yes, they are available every where. Very good in spotting intruder to their feeding ground. They do not stay away, continue feeding but becomes very cautious not to reveal their where about.


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Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis

Greater Coucal is resident in southern Asia, from India east to south China. Down the Malaysian Peninsula and into  Indonesia. Greater Coucal is also terrestrial bird. Due to its long, large size, this could also be viewed as an elegant bird.

Greater Coucal prefers long grasses but I think even more, the dark thick under growth. This is a bird of the forest edge, near cultivated areas and waterways. Also found in Mangrove forest. Sometimes grassland.

The bird is very often heard but seldom seen, concealing its large body in thick under growth. In the morning, less often than the Lesser Coucal, the Greater Coucal do sun bask as well. Unlike the Lesser Coucal, Greater Coucal perch, high among the tip of bare branches of tall tree. Among the leaves of palm trees. The Greater Coucal walks with grace, slowly like a Pheasant with its tail held horizontal. Its flight weak, from point A to point B. When it needs to cover longer distances. What it does, is to walk up the branches to gain height and then slides down to disappear among thick foliages.

A particular point about the Greater Coucal is its deep resonant calls. A series of 7-8 notes "H_Oooops" in varying speed, then repeated. This is a way to detect its presence and wait for its appearance.

Though the bird is available every where, I would suggest Palm Oil estate and edge of Mangrove forest. The bird is more willing to stay in the open for a while


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Coucals are very common birds in the country and almost present when there are wooded patches of forest. But it is not easy to spot or stalk them as they are are aware of our presence while we still do not detect theirs. So they make it their strategy to remain out of sight. Only way to get pictures of them - is through chance meetings.