Himalayan Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus


Taxonomic note
Recent mtDNA study suggests that present species is closest to C. canorus, the two being a sister-clade to C. gularis and C. rochii (Payne 2005). In 2014 Cuculus saturatus (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) incorporated C. optatus following the suggestion they were vocally indistinguishable, however the previous treatment, with both separated as species, is here reinstated after Xia et al. (2016) demonstrated that they are vocally distinct.

An earlier concept (recognised prior to 2006) treated C. saturatus (with optatus/horsfieldi: see note under C. optatus) as conspecific with C. lepidus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993). Monotypic.

Taxonomic source(s)
Handbook of the Birds of the World and BirdLife International. 2021. Handbook of the Birds of the World and BirdLife International digital checklist of the birds of the world. Version 6. Available at:
Payne, R. B. 2005. The cuckoos. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

IUCN Red list criteria met and history
Red List criteria met
Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable
- - -

Red List history
Year Category Criteria
2021 Least Concern
2016 Not Recognised
2014 Not Recognised
2013 Least Concern
2012 Least Concern
2009 Least Concern
2008 Least Concern
2007 Least Concern
2004 Not Recognised
2000 Not Recognised
1994 Not Recognised
1988 Not Recognised
Species attributes

Migratory status full migrant Forest dependency Medium
Land mass type Average mass -

Estimate Data quality
Extent of Occurrence breeding/resident (km2) 7,610,000
Extent of Occurrence non-breeding (km2) 10,300,000
Number of locations -
Severely Fragmented -
Population and trend
Value Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
No. of mature individuals unknown not applicable not applicable 0
Population trend Decreasing inferred -
Decline (3 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (5 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (10 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (10 years/3 generation future) 1-19 - - -
Decline (10 years/3 generation past and future) 1-19 - - -
Number of subpopulations - - -
Percentage in largest subpopulation - - -
Generation length (yrs) 3.71 - - -

Population justification: The global population size has not been quantified, but is thought to be large as the species is described as 'common and widespread' in at least parts of its range (Payne 2005).

Trend justification: Remote sensing data on tree cover loss indicate that approximately 13% of tree cover with at least 50% canopy cover was lost from the species's non-breeding range, and approximately 5% from the breeding range, over the past three generations (11 years; Global Forest Watch 2021). These figures may underestimate the true rate of forest loss, especially in the non-breeding range, as the tree cover data may include plantations. However, the species has has been recorded in some types of plantation and in gardens during the non-breeding season (Payne and Kirwan 2020). The species's population size is therefore suspected to be declining at a rate of less than 20% over three generations.

Country/territory distribution
Country/Territory Occurrence status Presence Resident Breeding Non-breeding Passage
Bangladesh N Extant Yes Yes
Bhutan N Extant Yes
Cambodia N Extant Yes
China (mainland) N Extant Yes Yes
India N Extant Yes
Indonesia N Extant Yes Yes
Laos N Extant Yes Yes
Malaysia N Extant Yes Yes
Myanmar N Extant Yes Yes
Nepal N Extant Yes
Pakistan N Extant Yes
Philippines N Extant Yes
Thailand N Extant Yes Yes
Vietnam N Extant Yes Yes

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA)
Country/Territory IBA Name

Habitats & altitude
Habitat (level 1) Habitat (level 2) Importance Occurrence
Artificial/Terrestrial Plantations suitable breeding
Artificial/Terrestrial Plantations suitable non-breeding
Forest Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland suitable breeding
Forest Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland suitable non-breeding
Forest Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane major breeding
Forest Temperate major breeding
Altitude 0 - 4500 m Occasional altitudinal limits  

Threats & impact
Threat (level 1) Threat (level 2) Impact and Stresses
Agriculture & aquaculture Annual & perennial non-timber crops - Agro-industry farming Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Negligible declines Low Impact: 4
Ecosystem degradation, Ecosystem conversion
Biological resource use Logging & wood harvesting - Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest] Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Negligible declines Low Impact: 4
Ecosystem degradation

Purpose Primary form used Life stage used Source Scale Level Timing
Food - human - - Non-trivial Recent
Pets/display animals, horticulture - - International Non-trivial Recent

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Cuculus saturatus. Downloaded from on 18/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 18/08/2022.