African Cuckoo-hawk Aviceda cuculoides


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
Population size likely to exceed 10,000 individuals, based on its large range (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.


Behaviour This widely distributed afrotropical species is largely permanently resident, but a proportion will make some seasonal movements. During April-November some individuals migrate northwards to East Africa, particularly coastal Kenya (del Hoyo et al., 1994) and during the non-breeding season (May-August) some will migrate down into Southern Africa (Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001), particularly the Transvaal highveld (del Hoyo et al., 1994). The species is also occasionally found in south-east Ethiopia (Brown et al., 1982). The breeding season varies by locality; in southern Africa it occurs during September-March; in West Africa it is during June-August; in Kenya it is during both March-June and November –February, following the onset of the rains (Brown, et al., 1982; del Hoyo et al., 1994; Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001). Its general behaviour is largely unknown, probably as a result of its low local densities and secretive habits (Brown et al., 1982). However, during migration individuals become slightly more conspicuous and thus may appear more numerous (Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001). Habitat This reticent species occupies the interior and edges of evergreen forest and deciduous woodlands, including suburban gardens and more open savannas, up to 3000m (Brown, et al., 1982; del Hoyo et al., 1994; Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001).  During migration through East Africa it also occupies drier woodland and bush (Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001). Diet The species feeds mainly on insects, reptiles and small birds (Brown et al., 1982). It mostly still-hunts from a perch, although it is known to hawk for flying insects and to actively search for prey (Ferguson-Lees and Christie, 2001). Breeding Site Constructs small slight nests high in trees, including eucalyptus, often along a watercourse (Brown et al., 1982; Ferguson- Lees and Christie, 2001). Management Information The species utilises interior forest, but is also observed in secondary growth and open edge habitats.  It is affected by the loss of forest habitat and is predated by larger raptors.  There are no records of it being affected by pesticides (del Hoyo et al., 1994).


It is affected by the loss of forest habitat and can be predated by larger raptors (del Hoyo et al., 1994). In South Africa it has been known to drown in small reservoirs on farmland (Anderson et al. 1999). It is traded for use in traditional medicine in some countries, however there is no evidence that this is having a significant effect on populations (Williams et al. 2013; Petrozzi 2018). 

Conservation actions

Conservation actions underway
The species is listed on CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II and Raptors MoU Category 3. 

Conservation actions needed
Very little is known about population size or trends of this species, therefore further research is needed to allow for a more thorough assessment of extinction risk.


Text account compilers
Haskell, L.

Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Ashpole, J & Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Species factsheet: Aviceda cuculoides. Downloaded from on 29/02/2024.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2024) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/02/2024.