Birds of the Cuckoo Family

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The Coucal is a name used by Levaillant, compounded from coucou and alouette, says Cuvier (Regne Anim, Page 425, note).  The word had been adopted by several English ornithologists by the end of the 19th Century, and especially by Gould (Handbook of Birds of Australia i. pp. 634. 636), as the equivalent of Illiger's Centropus, genus, a widely spread group within the Cuculidae(Cuckoo) family...

Modern classification confirms the Coucals as a very distinct subfamily, Centropodinae, within the cuculidae family, this subfamily (Centropodinae) containing just the one genus Centropus.  Within the Centropus genus there are around 28 species of Coucal who are chiefly of terrestrial habit.  Most have the hallux (first digit on the foot or the equivalent to the human "big toe") terminated by a straight spine-like claw, from which the name of "Lark-heeled" Cuckoos is sometimes applied to them.

They inhabit almost all parts of the Ethiopian Region from Egypt to the Cape of Africa, as well as Madagascar: One species occurs in India, where it is known as the "Crow-Pheasant," and others range to the eastward as far as China and throughout the Archipelago to New Guinea and Australia.

Their food consists chiefly of insects and caterpillars, Occasionally they will devour slightly larger creatures like small frogs.

Unlike many cuckoos they they build their own nests, and tend their own eggs.  These are usually two to four in number, and have a white, chalky shell.  The male coucal, rather than the female, often takes the responsibility of caring for the chicks.


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