Brush Cuckoo

Did you know?

The Brush Cuckoo's eggs can match those of the host birds' in colouring and size.

Descending series of loud whistled notes: 'fear-fear-fear-fear'. Also, three note call: 'where's-the-tea'.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
September to January in south; most months in north.
Clutch Size: 
1 egg
12 days
Nestling Period: 
19 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Brush Cuckoo male is grey-brown above, light grey to buff below, with a grey head, neck and breast. The tail has a white tip and is barred white underneath. The female has two colour morphs (forms): unbarred and barred. The unbarred morph is similar to the male but is much paler buff underneath, with faint grey barring across the chest. The barred morph is less common, and has streaked/barred upper parts and the underbody is darkly barred. Juvenile Brush Cuckoos are heavily barred dark brown above and mottled and barred underneath.

Similar species: 

The Brush Cuckoo is similar in shape to the Pallid CuckooC. pallidus, but has more buff underparts. TheFan-tailed CuckooC. flabelliformis, is more slate-grey on the back and has a yellow eye-ring and a longer, more fanned tail, while the Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo,C. castaneiventris, has a rich chestnut colouring on the under body.

Where does it live?

The Brush Cuckoo is found across northern Australia from the Kimberley region to the east coast, down to Victoria. Also found in eastern Indonesia, including Timor and the Moluccas, New Guinea and to the Solomon Islands.


The Brush Cuckoo is found in wooded habitats, including rainforest, wet sclerophyll forests, paperbarks, along waterways and in more open forests and woodlands. Sometimes found in gardens.

Seasonal movements: 

Partially migratory, with southern populations moving north in winter.

What does it do?

The Brush Cuckoo eats insects, particularly hairy caterpillars. It usually forages high in the forest canopy but may sometimes feed on the ground.


The Brush Cuckoo is a nest parasite, which means that it lays its eggs in other birds' nests. The most common hosts are: flycatchers, especially Rhipidura species, robins, fairy-wrens, gerygones and honeyeaters. In northern Australia the main hosts are: the Brown-backed and Bar-breasted Honeyeaters, while in southern Australia, the hosts are mainly the Grey Fantail, Scarlet Robin and Leaden Flycatcher. Only one egg is laid in a host's nest and the eggs tend to resemble closely the eggs of the chosen host in markings. The young cuckoo ejects any other eggs or young once it hatches. The host parents brood and feed the young cuckoo, sometimes for up to a month after it fledges.

Living with us

The Brush Cuckoo is not common in regrowth forests or in areas that are regularly burnt. It will be seen in gardens. Sometimes collides with lighthouses.

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