Order: Cuculiformes

Family: Cuculidae

Scientific name: Hierococcyx varius, Vahl, 1797

IUCN Red list status-Least Concern

Did you know?

  1. Common Hawk Cuckoo is popularly known as Brainfever Bird.
  2. Common Hawk Cuckoo lays its eggs in the nest of Babblers.


Common Hawk Cuckoo is 30-35 cm long and weighs 100-110 gms.  It is ashy brown on the upper side and the head is greyish brown. The breast region is pale rufous with streaks. The underside is white with fine brown cross barring. The tail is whitish with broad dark and pale brown bands. The males are slightly larger than the females. Both sexes look similar. Juvenile birds have broad streaking on under parts and brownish upper parts, which have rufous barring.


The diet of Common Hawk Cuckoo consists mainly of caterpillars, moths, grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, winged ants, termites and lizards. They also take fruits like figs, berries. Forage time is mainly day and it is done solitarily.


The main habitat of Common Hawk Cuckoo include evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, wooded hillsides, deciduous hill forests, cultivated farmlands, plantations and parks with dense shady trees. In India, it is distributed throughout the union. It is also found in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Reproductive Behaviour

Breeding season of Common Hawk Cuckoo is from March to July. These cuckoos do not make their own nest. They are brood parasites, and lay eggs in the nest of other birds like Babblers and rely on the host to raise their young. Normally one egg is laid. The host birds incubate the egg and take care of the hatchlings.


Call is a loud screaming “pee-peeya-pee-peeya” repeated 5-6 times. It resembles like “brainfever-brainfever”.

Related Species and Sub Species

  • Large Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx sparverioides).
  • Rufous Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx hyperythrus).
  • Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx fugax).
  • Philippine Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx pectoralis).
  • Dark Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx bocki).
  • Hodgeson’s Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx nisicolor).
  • Hierococcyx varius varius of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Hierococcyx varius ciceliae of Sri Lanka.

Migratory Behaviour

Common Resident and local migratory.