Asian emerald cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus, photographed by J. J. Harrison.

Belongs within: Cuculidae.
Contains: Cuculus.

The Cuculinae are the Old World parasitic cuckoos. These insectivorous birds are best known for their trait of laying their eggs in the nests of passerine birds, which then raise the cuckoo chicks as if they were their own. Within the Cuculinae, the bronze cuckoos of the genus Chrysococcyx are distinctive for the metallic green coloration on their upper parts. The koels of the genus Eudynamys are large, long-tailed cuckoos found in southern and eastern Asia and northern Australasia; males are black in coloration whereas females are dark brown above with pale spots.

Characters (from Mason 1997): Small to large slender birds small to stout decurved bills with swollen rounded nostrils and vestigial rictal bristles; body feathering soft, sleek, and sometimes glossed brilliantly green or blue-black, close in varied tracts but without apterium between dorsal-cervical and interscapular tracts; no downs; aftershafts absent (vestigial?); uropygial gland well developed, naked. Feet relatively weak, adapted for arboreal perching, zygodactylous with outer toe permanently reversed; tarsi rather coarsely scutellate, toes with short claws; hypotarsus with two closed canals. Sexes dimorphic or similar, males usually larger than females. Wings rounded to commonly pointed: ten primaries plus remicle and nine to twelve eutaxic secondaries moulting erratically in 'transilient' mode; alula four-feathered. Tail short to long and graduated: ten rectrices. Nares holorhinal and impervious, nasal septum imperforate; desmognathous palate with vestigial, incomplete vomer, palatines with narrowly rounded shelf, maxillary processes swollen and straight, lachrymals moderately enlarged to vestigial, sometimes almost reaching jugal bar, free from thin, variably enlarged ectethmoids, uncinate bone consistently present; basipterygoid processes vestigial; interorbital septum with two or three principal perforations; atlas notched or perforated; 14 cervical vertebrae (13 in Clamator); sternum double-notched to almost entire on either side, both spina interna and externa present (fused in Clamator) or only spina externa (Eudynamys, Scythrops), furcula with or without prolong hypocleideum; fossae flanking preacetabular processes of pelvic girdle narrow to wide, shelf of preacetabular processes square to rounded, not overlapping ischium dorsally, lateral perforations along either side of iliac crest obsolete to pronounced. Musculus expansor secundariorum 'cuculine'; pelvic muscle formula ABXY to AXY (ABEXY in Clamator), M. ambiens present; deep plantar tendons Type I. Carotid arteries paired. Syrinx tracheo-bronchial. Tongue small, cartilaginous; no crop; caeca present, rather long. Diploid karyotype of 78-80 chromosomes, with six pairs of macrochromosomes.

<==Cuculinae CC10
    |--+--Scythrops Latham 1790 JT12, CC10 [Scythropinae]
    |  |    `--*S. novaehollandiae Latham 1790 CC10 [incl. S. novaehollandiae neglectus Mathews 1912 WS48]
    |  `--+--Microdynamis parva JT12
    |     `--Eudynamys Vigors & Horsfield 1826 JT12, CC10 [=Eudynamis Cabanis & Heine 1863 CC10; Eudynameinae]
    |          |--*E. orientalis (Linnaeus 1766) [=Cuculus orientalis] CC10
    |          |--E. melanorhynchus JT12
    |          `--E. scolopaceus (Linnaeus 1758) JT12, CC10 [=Cuculus scolopaceus WS48]
    |               |--E. s. scolopaceus WS48
    |               `--E. s. cyanocephala (Latham 1801) WS48 (see below for synonymy)
    `--+--+--Rhamphomantis megarhynchus JT12
       |  `--Chrysococcyx Boie 1826 JT12, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
       |       |  i. s.: C. crassirostris JT12
       |       |         C. intermedius D66
       |       |         C. maculatus JT12
       |       |         C. malayanus (Raffles 1822) J06, WS48 [=Cuculus malayanus WS48, Chalcites malayanus WS48]
       |       |         C. ruficollis JT12
       |       |         C. rufomerus J06
       |       |         C. russatus JT12 [=C. minutillus russatus M03]
       |       |         C. smaragdineus D66
       |       |         C. xanthorhynchus JT12 [=Cuculus xanthorhynchus CC10, *Chalcococcyx xanthorhynchus CC10]
       |       |--+--C. caprius JT12
       |       |  `--C. klass BKB15
       |       `--+--+--*C. cupreus CC10, JT12 [=Cuculus cupreus CC10]
       |          |  `--C. flavigularis BKB15
       |          `--+--+--C. basalis (Horsfield 1821) BKB15, WS48 [=Cuculus basalis WS48, Chalcites basalis WS48]
       |             |  |    |--C. b. basalis WS48
       |             |  |    `--‘Chalcites’ b. modesta (Diggles 1876) (see below for synonymy) WS48
       |             |  `--C. osculans BKB15
       |             `--+--C. lucidus (Gmelin 1788) BKB15, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
       |                |       |--C. l. lucidus (see below for synonymy) CC10
       |                |       |--‘Chalcites’ lucidus harterti RN72
       |                |       |--‘Chalcites’ lucidus layardi RN72
       |                |       `--C. l. plagosus Latham 1802 CC10 (see below for synonymy)
       |                `--+--C. meyeri JT12
       |                   `--C. minutillus Gould 1859 BKB15, WS48
       |                        |--C. m. minutillus (see below for synonymy) WS48
       |                        `--C. m. barnardi M03
       `--+--+--Cuculus JT12
          |  `--+--Hierococcyx BKB15
          |     |    |--H. fugax BKB15
          |     |    `--H. sparverioides S89
          |     `--Cercococcyx JT12
          |          |--C. mechowi JT12
          |          `--+--C. montanus JT12
          |             `--C. olivinus JT12
          `--+--Heteroscenes Cabanis & Heine 1863 CC10
             |    `--*H. pallidus (Latham 1802) CC10 (see below for synonymy)
             `--+--Surniculus Lesson 1830 BKB15, B94 [Surniculinae]
                |    |--S. lugubris JT12
                |    `--S. velutinus JT12
                `--Cacomantis Statius Müller 1843 JT12, CC10
                     |  i. s.: C. bronzinus S13
                     |         C. heinrichi JT12
                     |         C. passerinus JT12
                     |         C. schistaceigularis S13
                     |         C. sepulcralis JT12
                     |         C. simus S13
                     |         C. threnodes S89
                     |--+--C. castaneiventris JT12
                     |  |--C. flabelliformis (Latham 1802) JT12, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
                     |  `--C. pyrrhophanus Vieillot 1817 BKB15, WS48 [=Cuculus pyrrhophanus WS48]
                     `--+--C. sonneratii JT12
                        `--+--C. merulinus JT12 [incl. Cuculus flavus CC10, *Ca. flavus CC10]
                           `--C. variolosus (Vigors & Horsfield 1827) JT12, WS48 [=Cuculus variolosus WS48]
                                |--C. v. variolosus J06
                                |--C. v. dumetorum M03
                                `--C. v. infaustus J06

Cacomantis flabelliformis (Latham 1802) JT12, CC10 [=Cuculus flabelliformis CC10; incl. Cu. rubricatus albani Mathews 1912 WS48, Cu. prionurus Lichtenstein 1823 CC10, Cacomantis pyrrhophanus prionurus CC10, Cuculus pyrrhophanus prionurus CC10]

‘Chalcites’ basalis modesta (Diggles 1876) [=Lamprococcyx modesta; incl. Chrysococcyx basalis wyndhami Mathews 1912] WS48

Chrysococcyx Boie 1826 JT12, CC10 [incl. Chalcites Lesson 1830 CC10, Chalcococcyx Cabanis & Heine 1863 CC10, Lamprococcyx Cabanis & Heine 1863 CC10; Chrysococcyginae]

Chrysococcyx lucidus (Gmelin 1788) BKB15, CC10 [=Cuculus lucidus CC10, Chalcites lucidus CC10, *Lamprococcyx lucidus CC10]

Chrysococcyx lucidus lucidus (Gmelin 1788) [incl. Cuculus nitens Forster in Lichtenstein 1844, Lamprococcyx lucidus australis Mathews 1916] CC10

Chrysococcyx lucidus plagosus Latham 1802 CC10 [=Chalcites lucidus plagosus WS48, Chalcococcyx plagosus S13; incl. Chr. plagosus carteri Mathews 1912 WS48, Cuculus chalcites CC10, *Chalcites chalcites CC10]

Chrysococcyx minutillus minutillus
[=Chalcites malayanus minutillus; incl. Chr. minutillus perplexus Mathews 1912] WS48

Eudynamys scolopaceus cyanocephala (Latham 1801) WS48 [=Cuculus cyanocephalus WS48; incl. E. orientalis subcyanocephalus Mathews 1912 WS48, E. scolopacea subcyanocephala M03]

*Heteroscenes pallidus (Latham 1802) CC10 [=Columba pallida CC10, Cacomantis pallidus BKB15, Cuculus pallidus CC10; incl. Heteroscenes occidentalis Cabanis & Heine 1864 WS48]

*Type species of generic name indicated


[B94] Bock, W. J. 1994. History and nomenclature of avian family-group names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 222: 1–281.

[BKB15] Burleigh, J. G., R. T. Kimball & E. L. Braun. 2015. Building the avian tree of life using a large-scale, sparse supermatrix. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 53–63.

[CC10] Checklist Committee (OSNZ). 2010. Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica 4th ed. Ornithological Society of New Zealand and Te Papa Press: Wellington.

[D66] Dohrn, H. 1866. Synopsis of the birds of Ilha do Principe, with some remarks on their habits and descriptions of new species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 324–332.

[JT12] Jetz, W., G. H. Thomas, J. B. Joy, K. Hartmann & A. Ø. Mooers. 2012. The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491: 444–448.

[J06] Johnstone, R. E. 2006. The birds of Gag Island, Western Papuan islands, Indonesia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 23 (2): 115–132.

Mason, I. J. 1997. Cuculidae. In: Zoological Catalogue of Australia vol. 37.2. Aves (Columbidae to Coraciidae) pp. 219-254. CSIRO Publishers.

[M03] Morcombe, M. 2003. Field Guide to Australian Birds 2nd ed. Steve Parish Publishing.

[RN72] Rutgers, A., & K. A. Norris (eds.) 1972. Encyclopaedia of Aviculture vol. 2. Blandford Press: London.

[S89] Salvadori, T. 1889. Viaggio di Leonardo Fea nella Birmania e nelle regioni vicine. XIX.—Uccelli raccolti nei Monti Carin a nord-est di Tounghoo, nel Pegù presso Rangoon e Tounghoo e nel Tenasserim presso Malewoon. Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova, Serie 2a, 7: 369–438.

[S13] Sarasin, F. 1913. Die Vögel Neu-Caledoniens und der Loyalty-Inseln. In: Sarasin, F., & J. Roux (eds) Nova Caledonia: Forschungen in Neu-Caledonian und auf den Loyalty-Inseln. A. Zoologie vol. 1 pt 1 pp. 1–78, pls 1–3. C. W. Kreidels Verlag: Wiesbaden.

[WS48] Whittell, H. M., & D. L. Serventy. 1948. A systematic list of the birds of Western Australia. Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Special Publication 1: 1–126.

Last updated: 21 August 2019.

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