For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Ground cuckooshrike.

Ground cuckooshrike

Ground cuckoo-shrike
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Campephagidae
Genus: Coracina
C. maxima
Binomial name
Coracina maxima
(Rüppell, 1839)

The ground cuckoo-shrike (Coracina maxima) is an uncommon bird species endemic to Australia, occurring mainly in open woodland and arid grasslands throughout inland Australia,[2] but also occasionally in areas on the east coast.[3]


Coracina maxima is one of 81 species in the family Campephagidae, 7 of which occur in Australia.[2] The family can be divided into 2 groups, one of which contains 13 of the 81 species, and occur only in Asia. The other group, which includes genus Coracina (cuckoo-shrikes, cicadabirds and trillers), occurs in Africa, southern and Southeast Asia, Australia and islands in the west Pacific.[2] Occurring in Australia are four species of cuckoo-shrike. The black-faced cuckoo-shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae) is a common species that occurs throughout all of Australia.[3] The white-bellied cuckoo-shrike (Coracina papuensis) is uncommon and only occurring in the northern parts of the Northern Territory, as well as most of Queensland, Victoria and eastern New South Wales.[3] The barred cuckoo-shrike (Coracina lineata) is a rare species and only occurs along the east coast of Queensland, and parts of the NSW coast.[3] These three cuckoo-shrikes all occur in other countries including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.[3] The ground cuckoo-shrike is an uncommon species and is endemic to Australia, occurring in parts of all the mainland Australian states and territories.[2]  


The ground cuckoo-shrike is a slender, long-legged bird,[3] the largest of the cuckoo-shrikes measuring 33–37 cm in length,[4] and weighing approximately 115 g.[2] It was named cuckoo-shrike not because it is affiliated with either the cuckoo or the shrike, but because of the similar features that it has to both these birds.[2] The stout, hooked shrike-like beak and plumage which is similar to that of the cuckoo are the reason for its name.[2]

The adult bird possesses a pale grey head and upper body, with pale yellow eyes.[3] Its lower back, rump and underparts are white and finely barred with black, contrasting with the black wings and the slightly forked black tail.[3] This forked tail is a characteristic specific to the ground cuckoo-shrike.[4] The immature ground cuckoo-shrike is similar in appearance to the adult, but has fine, broken black barrings on the throat and upper parts and dark eyes with a dark eye-line, instead of a black mask with pale yellow eyes.[3] The flight call of this bird is a distinctive pee-ew, pee-ew or chill-chill….kee-lik, keelick.[5] Due to the colouration of the ground cuckoo-shrike, when in flight they can look quite black-and-white and so may be mistaken for an Australian magpie.[6]

Distribution and habitat

The distribution of the ground cuckoo-shrike is widespread across Australia, mainly occurring in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and in some parts of Victoria.[7] They occur mostly inland of the Great Dividing Range[3] in Australia's semi-arid regions,[2] but also occur in areas on the east coast.[3] They have been found to occur in areas of open woodland, arid shrub-land[7] and open grasslands that are dominated by dead trees and species such as mulga, cypress-pine and mallee-spinifex.[3] Ground cuckoo-shrikes are more likely to occur in these habitats if they are located near watercourses, floodplains, creeks and wetlands.[3] Because of the location of the preferred habitats, they are more frequently found in inland areas rather than coastal regions.[6] Various reports have recorded their presence in woodland areas located on river channels and floodplains,[8] mulga shrubland[9] and cleared woodland regrowth areas.[10]

Despite their large range throughout Australia, they are an uncommon species, thinly distributed and probably nomadic, which can make it hard to predict their location and where they can be expected to be seen.[4] The current population trend of the ground cuckoo-shrike is said to be decreasing, possibly due to declines in the Murray-Mallee region since the mid 1970s.[11] Dolby and Clarke (2014) clearly lists and describes places where the ground cuckoo-shrike can be expected to be spotted.[7]



The ground cuckoo-shrike, as its name suggests, mainly feeds on the ground,[5] being adapted to this kind of feeding with their long legs and the ability to run quickly along the ground.[12] They spend a lot of their time foraging on bare open ground in small groups[4] for their food, which consists of mainly on insects.[12] Their diet includes adult and larval arthropods such as praying mantis, grasshoppers, locust, ants and spiders.[13]

Breeding and nesting

Ground cuckoo-shrikes are generally encountered in small groups of three or more.[12] This is possibly because the young stay in the family group until the next breeding season, sometimes helping to feed the new young.[6] They make their nests on branches or forks of trees 3 to 15 m high, with bark, grass, stems and other material,[3] or use the old nests of magpie-larks or white-winged chough.[14]

The breeding season is from August to November,[3] with the birds forming monogamous pairs and laying between two and five eggs in the nest, which is sometimes shared with other females, as more than one female are known to lay eggs in the same nest during the same breeding season.[2] The eggs are a glossy olive colour with brown/red-brown markings on them.[3]

Threats and conservation status

Though the population of the ground cuckoo-shrike is decreasing, its conservation status is classed as least concern.[1] In 2013, it was listed as vulnerable in Victoria under the Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria 2013.[15]

A possible threat to the ground cuckoo-shrike is the increase in woody vegetation density. This would benefit most woodland bird species, but in the case of the ground cuckoo-shrike which dwells in open woodland habitats, it could have a detrimental effect on its population.[16]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2016). "Coracina maxima". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22706466A94071532. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22706466A94071532.en. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Andrew, David; Burnie, David (2009). Bird Australia. BirdLife International. Camberwell, Vic.: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 9781740336994. OCLC 299097574.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Pizzey, Graham (2007). The field guide to the birds of Australia. Pymble, N.S.W.: Harper Collins. ISBN 9780207199356. OCLC 166314858.
  4. ^ a b c d Campbell, Iain; Woods, Sam; Leseberg, Nick (2014). Birds of Australia. A Photographic Guide. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 306. ISBN 978-1-4008-6510-9.
  5. ^ a b Pizzey, Graham; Knight, Frank (2013). Regional Field Guide to Birds. Red Centre to the Top End. Sydney: Harper Collins Publishers. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-732-29537-0. OCLC 866840667.
  6. ^ a b c "Ground Cuckoo-shrike - Australian Birds - photographs by Graeme Chapman". Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  7. ^ a b c Dolby, Tim; Clarke, Rohan (2014). Finding Australian Birds: A Field Guide to Birding Locations. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing. p. 560. ISBN 9780643097667.
  8. ^ Pavey, C. R.; Nano, C. E. M. (2009). "Bird assemblages of arid Australia: Vegetation patterns have a greater effect than disturbance and resource pulses". Journal of Arid Environments. 73 (6–7): 638. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2009.01.010.
  9. ^ Burbidge, A. A.; Fuller, P. J. (2007). "Gibson desert birds: Responses to drought and plenty". Emu - Austral Ornithology. 107 (2): 131. doi:10.1071/MU06044. S2CID 84571245.
  10. ^ Hannah, D.; Woinarsk, J. C. Z.; Catterall, C. P.; McCosker, J. C.; Thurgate, N. Y.; Fensham, R. J. (2007). "Impacts of clearing, fragmentation and disturbance on the bird fauna of Eucalypt savanna woodlands in central Queensland, Australia". Austral Ecology. 32 (3): 267. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.2007.01683.x.
  11. ^ "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  12. ^ a b c Williams, S. L. (1994). Mallee bird communities and the pastoral industry in semi-arid South Australia. p. 131.
  13. ^ Barker, R. D.; Vestjens, W. J. M. (1990). The food of Australian Birds 2: Passerines. Melbourne: Victoria: CSIRO Publishing. p. 31. ISBN 9780643051157.
  14. ^ Disher, Peter (2000). Birds of the Barham district, New South Wales and Victoria: an historical summary 1930-1999. Barham, N.S.W.: Barham Land Care Group in association with Bird Observers Club of Australia. p. 47. ISBN 0646403931.
  15. ^ Australia, Atlas of Living. "Coracina (Pteropodocys) maxima : Ground Cuckoo-Shrike". Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  16. ^ Kutt, A. S.; Martin, T. G. (2010). "Bird foraging height predicts bird species response to woody vegetation change". Biodiversity and Conservation. 19 (8): 2257. doi:10.1007/s10531-010-9840-y. S2CID 34308592.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Ground cuckooshrike
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?