Lesser Coucal (Centropus Bengalensis): The Marshland’s Melody

The enchanting landscape of India is graced by a myriad of bird species, each contributing to the symphony of nature with their unique attributes. One such mesmerizing species is the Lesser Coucal (Centropus Bengalensis), a captivating cuckoo known for its distinctive call and stunning transformation in plumage with the changing seasons. This bird, albeit smaller in size compared to its counterparts, owns a unique character that leaves bird watchers and ornithologists intrigued and inspired. Although it prefers seclusion in the grasslands and marshy lands, it never fails to make its presence felt.

Table: Characteristics of Lesser Coucal

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameLesser Coucal
2Scientific nameCentropus Bengalensis
3ColourBlackish with rufous wings
4Average length39-46 cm
5Average height18-22 cm
6Type of birdMarshland
7Found in India in statesWidely found across India, except Sri Lanka
8HabitatMarshy lands with grass and tree cover
9IUCN StatusLeast Concern

Features of Lesser Coucal


The Lesser Coucal exhibits an impressive length of around 39 to 46 centimeters, adding a certain dominance to its presence despite its smaller size compared to the Greater Coucal. This length gives the bird an elongated and elegant silhouette, accentuated further by the long tail that features prominently in its anatomy. The tail aids in their movement, offering better balance and control when they glide through their grassy habitats.


Alongside its length, the Lesser Coucal also possesses a respectable height, standing about 18 to 22 cm tall. Despite being on the ground most of the time, the height gives them an edge, allowing them to keep an eye on potential threats and prey while navigating the dense grasslands. This moderate height, combined with their long hind claws, empowers the bird with enhanced adaptability to its habitat.

Running Speed

The Lesser Coucal is not renowned for its running speed; it is a bird more at ease in the undergrowth, making its way stealthily rather than with haste. It moves with a quiet, deliberate pace, almost lumbering, unhurried through the marshy terrains. It relies more on its camouflage and stealth for safety, disappearing effortlessly into the surrounding vegetation.

Seasonal Plumage Differences

One of the most fascinating features of the Lesser Coucal is the change in its plumage across seasons. This cuckoo species has a unique characteristic of alternating between a breeding and non-breeding plumage. During the breeding season, the feathers on its head and upper back glisten with dark shafts, enhancing its elegant blackish silhouette. In contrast, during non-breeding periods, these feathers bear whitish shafts, adding a softer contrast to its appearance.

Habitat and Food of the Lesser Coucal

  1. Habitat: The Lesser Coucal prefers marshy lands and grasslands adjacent to forests. The long grass and marshy surroundings provide them with ample cover, enabling them to skulk around undetected, away from predators.
  1. Food: Their diet is diverse, comprising mainly of insects. They are known to feed on caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, and other small creatures that inhabit their marshy dwellings.
  1. Foraging: The bird typically forages alone or in pairs, displaying an active hunting behaviour during the day despite its reputation as a skulker.
  1. Territory: The Lesser Coucal is territorial, and its habitat range usually includes wetlands with dense vegetation.
  1. Adaptation: The long hind claws of this bird are particularly adapted for a life spent primarily on the ground, aiding them in navigating their habitat efficiently.

Nesting and Nurturing

Lesser Coucal birds exhibit a unique nesting habit. Unlike many of their cuckoo relatives, they are not brood parasites but indulge in building their nests. They typically build dome-shaped nests using grass blades on low trees, preferring to nest from May to September, usually after the monsoon rains in June in India. In India, both male and female birds take part in incubating their eggs.. Both parents are known to care for the young ones, ensuring their survival and growth.


Like other wildlife, the Lesser Coucal also faces numerous threats. Habitat destruction due to urbanization and agricultural expansion poses a significant threat to their survival. Climate change and its resulting shifts in weather patterns also impact their habitat and food sources. Additionally, due to their attractive plumage, they are sometimes hunted for the illegal pet trade.

IUCN Status and Conservation

Currently, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Lesser Coucal is categorized as a species of “Least Concern,” indicating that it is not presently confronted with imminent risks of extinction. However, this does not imply that the bird is free from threats. Conservation efforts should focus on preserving their natural habitats, regulating hunting, and raising awareness about the bird’s ecological importance. Additionally, continuous monitoring and research are essential to ensure this fascinating bird continues to grace our planet with its presence.

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