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the web of life in southern Africa

Aviceda cuculoides (African cuckoo hawk, Cuckoo hawk)

Koekoekvalk [Afrikaans]; Afrikaanse koekoekswouw [Dutch]; Baza coucou [French]; Kuckucksweih [German]; Falc„o-cuco [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae

Aviceda cuculoides (African cuckoo hawk, Cuckoo hawk) Aviceda cuculoides (African cuckoo hawk, Cuckoo hawk)

Female African cuckoo hawk. [photo Neil Gray ©]

African cuckoo hawk. [photo Raghnild and Neil Crawford ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is generally scarce in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, northern Botswana, Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip) and eastern South Africa, with an isolated population in the east of the Western Cape. It generally prefers woodland, the understorey and edges of forest and plantations of alien trees.

Distribution of African cuckoo hawk in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common).

Movements and migrations

It is largely resident, although it may make local movements in Winter.

Predators and parasites

The chicks have been recorded as prey of Aquila wahlbergi (Wahlberg's eagle).


It mainly eats reptiles and insects, hunting by flying from tree to tree, searching for from its perch before flying to pluck the prey item from the canopy or ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, solitary nester, performing spectacular aerial displays in the run-up to the breeding season.
  • The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes in about 11 days, consisting of an untidy platform of twigs, vines and leaves and lined with leaves, grass and small bits of sticks. It is typically placed in the highest branches of a tree, roughly 10-30 metres above ground.
Aviceda cuculoides (African cuckoo hawk, Cuckoo hawk)  

African cuckoo hawk nest with eggs, Nylsvley area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • It lays 1-2, rarely 3 eggs in the period from September-March; egg-laying season peaks from October-December.
  • The chicks are fed and brooded by both parents, leaving the nest after about 28 days and taking their first flight a few days later, remaining dependent on their parents for another week or so.


Previously suspected to be threatened in the early 1980's, but it is now thought to be not threatened in southern Africa.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.