Lesser coucal

   ›      ›   Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis

The lesser coucal (Centropus bengalensis) belongs to the family of cuckoos and coucals, the Cuculidae.

The lesser coucal species is distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and southeast Asia. Unlike other cuckoos, these coucal species are not brood-parasites. These coucals are polytypic species.
Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Lesser Coucal Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The lesser coucal (Centropus bengalensis) is a comparatively small coucal, measuring 30 to 40 cm in length and weighing 90 to 150 gram. There is size variation among the subspecies.

The overall plumage of the lesser coucal is black and the wings are rufous. In breeding plumage, the head and the upper back becomes glossy black with dark shafts to the feathers.

In non-breeding plumage, the feather shafts on the head and back become whitish.The tail is long. The central tail coverts are long and barred. The juveniles have pale brown feathers with barring.

The bill of lesser coucal is short, down-curved and yellowish. The irises are dark brown. The feet are blackish and the hind claw is long. Their call is a series of low "whoot..woot" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis
1.Birds of India - Image of Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis by 孫鋒 林


Birds of India - Photo of Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis
2.Indian birds - Picture of Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis by Ron Knight

Indian birds - Image of Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis juvenile
3.Birds of India - Photo of Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis juvenile by Jason Thompson

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The lesser coucal species is distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor-Leste.

In India, these lesser coucals are distributed in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram.

The lesser coucal nominate subspecies C. b. bengalensis is distributed in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The subspecies C. b. medius is distributed in Maluku Islands (Indonesia).

The coucal subspecies C. b. lignator is distributed in south and southeast China, Hainan (China) and Taiwan. The subspecies C. b. javanensis is distributed in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and and southwest Philippines.

The lesser coucal subspecies C. b. philippinensis is distributed in Philippines. The subspecies C. b. sarasinorum is distributed in the Talaud Islands, Sangihe Islands, Sulawesi Islands and the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia.

Ecosystem and habitat

These lesser coucal species do not normally occur in forests. They normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 1800 meters. The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these species include tropical and subtropical heavily degraded forests and cultivated lands.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of these species include, open country, tropical and subtropical moist shrublands, marshlands, mangroves, swamps, peatlands and bamboo thickets.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of the lesser coucal consists mainly of insects. Caterpillars and other insect larvae, grasshoppers, cicadas, crickets, locust, spiders and lizards are their primary food. They glean the insects from the foliage and branches as well as hawk them in the air.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these lesser coucal species is during May to September in India. The laying season is from December to July in Malaysia.

The nesting sites of these species are located in low trees and shrubs. The nest is a dome of grass blades and twigs. These coucal species are monogamous. Both parents take part in incubation and care of young. The clutch usually contains two to four eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

These lesser coucal species are non-migrant resident birds. The birds in the higher altitudes descent to lower levels during winter.

Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. Within their range they may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Lesser coucal - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Centropus bengalensis
  • Species author: (Gmelin, 1788)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Cuculus bengalensis J. F. Gmelin, 1788
  • Family: Cuculidae › Cuculiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Lesser coucal, Chinese: 小鸦鹃, French: Coucal rufin, German: Bengalenkuckuck, Spanish: Cucal bengalí, Russian: Малая шпорцевая кукушка, Japanese: バンケン, Indonesian: Bubut alang alang
  • Other names: Black Coucal, Lesser Coucal
  • Distribution: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Timor-Leste
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, caterpillars, locust, cricket, cicadas, grasshoppers, mantids, beetles, spiders, lizards
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the lesser coucal (Centropus bengalensis) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of the species is considered to be increasing.

In most of its range, this coucal species is reported to be common and locally abundant. The generation length is 3.8 years. Its distribution size is about 21,100,000 sq.km.

Habitat alteration and destruction, hunting and trapping for pet-trade are the main threats that are endangering the survival of this species.

IUCN and CITES status

The lesser coucal (Centropus bengalensis) 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 coucal species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for lesser coucal (Centropus bengalensis).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Centropus bengalensis
Species:C. bengalensis
Binomial name:Centropus bengalensis
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The lesser coucal (Centropus bengalensis) is closely related to the black coucal (Centropus grillii) and the Philippine coucal (Centropus viridis).

The six recognized subspecies of the lesser coucal are: C. b. bengalensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788), C. b. medius Bonaparte, 1850, C. b. lignator Swinhoe, 1861, C. b. sarasinorum Stresemann, 1912, C. b. javanensis Dumont de Sainte Croix, 1818 and C. b. philippinensis Mees, 1971.
Popular posts on Birds of India
Blue-throated barbet photos Blue-throated barbet
Long-tailed broadbill Common (Grey-capped) emerald dove
Blue-naped pitta Large woodshrike
Brown wood owl Little swift
River lapwing Swinhoe's snipe
Small pratincole Little gull
Eastern spotted dove Asian (western) koel
Tawny owl Great barbet
Yellow-rumped honeyguide Eurasian wryneck
Square-tailed drongo-cuckoo Red turtle dove
Black-headed gull Collared pratincole
Wood snipe Indian thick-knee
Eurasian oystercatcher Great thick-knee
Crab-plover Beach thick-knee
Ibisbill Black-winged stilt
Pied avocet Northern lapwing
Pintail snipe Oriental pratincole
Black-headed cuckooshrike Mangrove whistler
White-tailed lapwing Black-tailed godwit
Western hooded pitta Common woodshrike
White-breasted woodswallow Marshall's iora
Sabine's gull Orange-breasted green pigeon
House swift Spotted owlet
Grey-headed lapwing Common snipe
Mew gull Andaman cuckoo-dove
Sirkeer malkoha Asian barred owlet
White-cheeked barbet Brown-capped pygmy woodpecker
Asian dowitcher Black-legged kittiwake
Nicobar pigeon Crested kingfisher
Indian pitta Bar-winged flycatcher-shrike

1.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/outdoor_birding/16150101550/ (cropped)
Image author: 孫鋒 林 | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 1/12/18
2.Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sussexbirder/8080210237/ (cropped)
Image author: Ron Knight | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 1/12/18
3.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lesser_Coucal_juvenile.jpg (cropped)
Image author: Jason Thompson | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 1/12/18
Current topic in Birds of India: Lesser coucal - Centropus bengalensis.
Contact State Tourism or travel agents for bird watching and wildlife tours.