Backyard Birds

Red-chested Cuckoos

The Red-chested Cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius) is found in Africa – specifically south of the Sahara. It is common throughout Southern Africa, except for the drier west. These cuckoos can be seen in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Its preferred habitat includes woodland areas and plantations.

Call / Vocalization:

In Africa, this cuckoo is named after its distinctive 3-note call “Piet-my-vrou.” This solitary cuckoo is highly vocal.


This medium-sized bird averages 28 to 30 cm in length.

Diet / Feeding:

Its primary diet consists of insects.

Breeding / Nesting:

The Red-chested Cuckoo is bigamous — which means it takes on more than a single mate. Their eggs are dark brown and laid in the nest of another bird – its favorite breeding host being the robin. The surrogate family then raises the young. The cuckoo eggs are much bigger than the robin’s. The Red-chested Cuckoo does not remove the robin eggs, but the cuckoos usually hatch about 3 or 4 days earlier than the chicks of the hosts. Then the young cuckoo chicks tip the robin chicks out when they hatch.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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