Order: Cuculiformes

Family:  Cuculidae

Scientific name: Cacomantis merulinus, Scopoli, 1786

IUCN Red list status- Least Concern

Did you know?

  1. Plaintive Cuckoo is also known as Rufous-bellied Plaintive Cuckoo.
  2. Plaintive Cuckoo lays their eggs in the nest of Tailor Birds and Prinias.


Plaintive Cuckoo is 20-25 cm in long and weighs 20 to 30 grams. Male bird has gray head, neck, nape, throat and the upper back. The rest of the upperparts and the wings are dark gray. The breast, belly and the vent region are rufous. The tail has dark bars and a white tip. The female is reddish brown on the upperparts with dark bars. The lower parts are pale brown with fine barring. The bill is dark gray and the base of the lower mandible is yellow. The legs and feet are yellowish orange and irises are red.


The diet Plaintive Cuckoo is mainly insects. Caterpillars, beetles, moths, bugs, termites and other invertebrates are their primary food. They are mostly arboreal and glean insects from branches. The forage time is mainly day and it is done solitarily.


Plaintive Cuckoo species have low forest dependency. The habitat includes pasturelands, agricultural fields, rural gardens, degraded forests, lowland rainforests and swamp forests. In India it is distributed throughout the union except the dry North West areas. They are also seen in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka (In Winter).

Reproductive Behaviour

Breeding Season of Plaintive Cuckoo is from March to September in India, with a peak in July. They are brood parasites, and lay their egg in the nest of other birds like Tailor Bird and Prinia and rely on them to raise the young. The Cuckoo hatchlings sometimes cause harm to the eggs and chicks of the host bird. But the host birds incubate the eggs and take care of the cuckoo young ones without knowing the deceit.


The call is a high pitched “pteer-pteer-pteer”.

Related Species and Sub Species

  • Banded Bay Cuckoo (Cacomantis sonneratii).
  • Grey-bellied Cuckoo (Cacomantis passerines).
  • Rusty Breasted Cuckoo (Cacomantis sepulcralis).
  • Cacomantis merulinus merulinus of Indonesia and Philippines.
  • Cacomantis merulinus querulus of northeast India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  • Cacomantis merulinus threnodes of Malaysia and Singapore.

Migratory Behaviour

Rare resident and Local Migratory