About: Pied Cuckoo

About: Pied Cuckoo

  • Different Names
    • Scientific Name- Clamator jacobinus
    • The genus ‘Clamator’ literally translates to being a shouter, a bird which is quite vocal. The word ‘jacobinus’ relates to pied birds.
    • These birds are also called as Chatak locally in India or pied crested cuckoo and Jacobin Cuckoo.

  • It is a bird with black and white plumage (pied) with a fancy crest on the head.

  • Distribution
    • The species is distributed south of the Sahara in Africa and south of the Himalayas in India.
    • It is also found in Sri Lanka and parts of Myanmar.


  • Populations in India
    • There are two populations of the Pied Cuckoo in India.
    • One is a resident in the southern part of the country. They are not migratory in nature. 
    • The other, makes its way to North and Central India from Africa by crossing the Arabian Sea, along with the monsoon winds.
    • Though, it is believed that the pied cuckoos that come to the Himalayan foothills are from Africa, this has never been ascertained through collected data.
    • Pied cuckoos have high site fidelity, that is, they come back to the same location year after year.
    • However, it is not known from which exact part of Africa they come from.

  • Arrival in Summers
    • The pied cuckoo is one of the few species that come to India in the summer.
    • Most other migratory species come in winter from colder places like Mongolia, Siberia, northeastern China, Kazakhstan etc.

  • Habitat
    • The bird is primarily arboreal, which means that it mostly lives on trees but often forages for food in low bushes, and sometimes even on the ground.
    • As it is arboreal nature, its habitat includes forests, well-wooded areas and also bushes in semi-arid regions.

  • Role in Food Webs
    • These birds are primarily insectivores and feed on grasshoppers, beetles and are also often seen feeding on fruits and berries from trees.
    • The species, like all cuckoos, is a brood parasite.
      • It lays its eggs in nests that belong to other birds, preferring similar-sized birds like babblers and bulbuls, as their ‘hosts’.
      • The hosts are often distracted by male cuckoos, and the females quickly lay their similar-sized and coloured eggs into the hosts’ nests.
      • The hosts then take care of the eggs and the chicks that hatch from them, as their own.
      • The parasitic chicks are fed by the hosts and then leave the host parents once they are ready to be on their own.


Pied Cuckoos & Indian Monsoons

  • The arrival of the pied cuckoos in the Himalayan foothills has traditionally been seen as heralding the onset of the monsoon.
  • Indian farmers have traditionally relied on the arrival of the pied cuckoo as a signal to sow seeds, as they know that the monsoon will be upon them soon.
  • This signal is never wrong, because the pied cuckoo arrives in India riding the monsoon wind.
  • Gathering information about the migratory route of the pied cuckoo can be invaluable for research on “climatic variations” taking place in the world, especially since the species has such a close association with the monsoon.

Pied Cuckoo & Climate Change

  • Studying Pied Cuckoo will also give information on the monsoon, changes in the monsoon and monsoon winds, erratic rainfall, seasonal fluctuations, water vapour pressure, etc
  • Climatic regimes are governed by temperature and wind and water currents, or the conveyor belts that they result in.
  • Extreme weather events take place when there are disruptions in these conveyor belts. The movement of a species such as the pied cuckoo, can indicate any such disruptions.

About WII & IIRS

  • Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is Dehradun-based organization under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • It is India’s apex institute for the study of wildlife science.
  • Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) is also in Dehradun and is a constituent unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

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