Thursday, December 8

Whistling hawk-cuckoo

   ›      ›   Whistling hawk-cuckoo - Hierococcyx nisicolor.

The whistling hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor) belongs to the family of cuckoos, Cuculidae.

These species of cuckoos are distributed in Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Indonesia. These cuckoos are brood parasites, laying eggs in the nest of other birds and rely on the host to raise their young. The whistling cuckoo chick evicts the host chicks to become the sole occupant of the nest. These birds are monotypic species.

Whistling hawk-cuckoo - Overview

  • Scientific name: Hierococcyx nisicolor
  • Species author: (Blyth, 1843)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Cuculus nisicolor Blyth, 1843, H. fugax nisicolor (before species status)
  • Family: Cuculidae › Cuculiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Whistling hawk-cuckoo, Chinese: 霍氏鹰鹃, French: Coucou de Hodgson, German: Fleckenbrust-Fluchtkuckuck, Spanish: Cuco silbador, Russian: Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo, Japanese: ジュウイチ, Indonesian: Kangkok Hodgson
  • Other names: Fugitive hawk cuckoo, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo
  • Distribution: Nepal, Bhutan, Northeast India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia
  • Diet and feeding habits: caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, winged ants and termites, fruits, fig, berries and lizards
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The whistling hawk-cuckoo is closely related to Hierococcyx hyperythrus, Hierococcyx pectoralis and Hierococcyx fugax.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The whistling hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor) is a smallish cuckoo measuring about 28 to 30 cm in length and weighing 70 to 90 grams. The head, back and rump are bluish-grayish black.


The whistling hawk-cuckoo mantle is brownish black. The tail is gray and has four black bands. The throat, chest, abdomen and undertail are whitish. The throat and upper chest have sparse brown and gray streaks. The lower chest and abdomen have sparse gray streaks. The legs are light brown. The eyes have yellow rings and the irises are brown. The slightly curved bill is gray with yellowish base. The whistling hawk-cuckoo call is a shrill, piping, buzzy whistling sound.
Birds of India Picture of Whistling hawk-cuckoo -  Hierococcyx nisicolor
Birds of India - Image of Whistling hawk-cuckoo - Hierococcyx nisicolor by Tom Tarrant

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The whistling hawk-cuckoo is distributed in Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh (very rare), Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China (including Hainan Island) and Indonesia. In India the whistling hawk-cuckoos occur in northern West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram states.

Ecosystem and habitat

The whistling hawk-cuckoo species are moderately forest dependant. They inhabit various ecosystems. They inhabit open woodlands, plantations, subtropical and tropical forests, degraded forests, tropical moist lowlands, moist montane and submontane forests, deciduous semi-evergreen, evergreen and secondary forests, pine forests and temperate forests. The whistling hawk-cuckoos may occur in elevations of 600 to 2800 meters.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of these whistling hawk-cuckoo species is caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, winged ants and termites, fruits, fig, berries and sometimes lizards. They are mostly arboreal and sometimes feed on the ground.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these whistling hawk-cuckoo species is from May to September in Northeast India and May to August in Thailand. These cuckoos are brood parasites, laying eggs in the nest of other birds and rely on the host to raise their young. The whistling cuckoo chick evicts the host chicks to become the sole occupant of the nest.

Migration and movement patterns

These cuckoo species are mostly migrant birds. They move to north of their range during summer for breeding and move to south of their range for wintering. In some ranges the whistling hawk-cuckoos also make altitudinal migration in winter. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding.


Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of the whistling hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor) has not been quantified. The overall population size is considered to be under slow decline. Throughout its range this cuckoo species is reported to be uncommon to rare. Habitat degradation, destruction and fragmentation are the main threats to the survival of these bird species. Their generation length is 7 years.

The whistling hawk-cuckoo does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the whistling hawk-cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor) and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Hierococcyx nisicolor
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Cuculiformes
Family:Cuculidae
Subfamily:-
Genus:Hierococcyx
Species:H. nisicolor
Binomial name:Hierococcyx nisicolor
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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Image author: Tom Tarrant | License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (as on 2016-12-08)
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