Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo

Did you know?

Cuckoos are very noisy during the breeding season but are mainly silent at other times of the year.

Descending, high-pitched whistle:'fee-ew' or 'tseeeeuw'. Also: 'chirrup' like sparrow or pipit.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
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Breeding season: 
July to February in south; all months except April and July in north.
Clutch Size: 
12 days
Nestling Period: 
16 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
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What does it look like?

Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo is an olive-brown above with pale scaling and a bronze to green sheen on the back and upper tail. It has a prominent dark-brown eyestripe, with a contrasting white eyebrow stripe above, with both curving down the sides of the neck. The throat is white with fine dark mottling.The underbody is white to cream with dark-brown barring at the sides, with the bars joining in the middle on the upper breast only. The undertail is grey with brown and white barring at the tip and sides. The tail is edged rufous (orange-brown) and the undertail is rufous when spread. Juveniles are similar but duller with faint or no barring on sides of body.

Similar species: 

Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo is similar to the Gould's, Shining and Little Bronze-Cuckoos, but these all have distinctive barring right up the throat; The Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo's throat is mottled or plain and the barring of the underbody is incomplete. The dark eyestripe combined with white eyebrow extending to neck also distinguishes it from other bronze-cuckoos. The similarly patterned Black-eared Cuckoo can be distinguished by its broader, black eyestripe, a lack of rufous in the tail and no barring on the underbody. It is also larger (19 cm - 20 cm) and has a different call.

Where does it live?

In Australia, Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo is found in all regions, including some islands. It is widespread on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland, and is found down through New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania and South Australia, but not on the Nullarbor Plain. Widespread in the Northern Territory and Western Australia except in the most arid areas (also found on Ashmore Reef). It is also found from the Malay Peninsula to the lesser Sundas, Indonesia and, rarely, Aru Island and southern New Guinea.


The Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo is found in many wooded habitats (such as open and dry woodland and forest) with a range of understoreys from grasses to shrubs or heath. Sometimes found near clearings and in recently logged or burnt forests. Found in farmland with some trees, orchards, vineyards and urban parks and gardens.

Seasonal movements: 

The species is a partial migrant, oving to breeding areas in south-eastern Australia during winter and spring and leaving in late autumn. Resident in northern Australia.

What does it do?

Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo feeds mostly on insects and their larvae, especially hairy caterpillars, although it may sometimes eat plant matter. It forages on the ground and in trees, and may sometimes feed in the air on caterpillars lowering themselves to the ground by sticky threads.


Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo is a nest parasite, like many other cuckoos. It usually parasitises bird species that build dome nests such as fairy-wrens and thornbills, but may also parasitise the open cup nests of other species, such as the White-fronted Chat. The female lays one egg in the host's nest. This egg can sometimes resemble the host's eggs in markings, but not necessarily. If the egg is laid before those of the host, the host bird may build over or abandon the cuckoo egg. Otherwise, the female cuckoo removes one of the host's eggs, or the newly hatched young cuckoo ejects the eggs or nestlings of the host. The host parents incubate the cuckoo egg and feed the young, up to several weeks after it fledges.

Living with us

In Western Australia, some populations of Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoos may have declined because their host populations have declined where land has been cleared for wheat.

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