Red-chested Cuckoo
Red-chested Cuckoo2 - WS
Common Name Piet-my-vrou
Range Sub-Saharan Africa
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Cuculiformes
Family Cuculidae
Genus Cuculus
Species Cuculus solitarius
Conservation Status
Least Concern
The Red-chested cuckoo (Cuculus solitarius), is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Afrikaans, it is known as "Piet-my-vrou", after its call.


The red-chested cuckoo is a medium-size cuckoo about 31 cm (12.2 in) in length. The male has slate-grey upper parts, pale grey throat and sides of head and dark grey tail tipped with white. The breast is rufous or cinnamon, often with barring, and the belly is creamy-white or pale buff. The female is similar but the colour of the breast is duller and with variable amounts of barring.

Distribution and Habitat

It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In Southern Africa it is a common breeding migrant, found throughout the area except for the drier west. The preferred habitats for the red-chested cuckoo are woodlands. The red-chested cuckoo is normally seen by itself rather than in the company of birds of the same species.


Piet-my-vrou & cape robin

A juvenile bird being fed by a Cape robin-chat host

It is usually solitary and highly vocal and lives on forests and plantations. It eats invertebrates including hairy caterpillars, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, slugs, snails, small vertebrates and berries.

The red-chested cuckoo takes on more than a single mate (it is polygamous). The nesting habit of red-chested cuckoo is to use the nest of another bird (brood parasitism). About fifteen different species of small bird are parasitised but the most common hosts are the Cape robin-chat (Cossypha caffra), the Cape wagtail (Motacilla capensis) and the white-throated robin-chat (Cossypha humeralis). The surrogate family then raise the chick. The bird lays eggs which are brown in colour and number between 20 eggs per season in different nests.

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