Pheasant crow – the Coucal

A beautiful terrestrial bird belonging to the Cuculidae family, the coucal is a large non-parasitic member of the cuckoo order of birds, and has a mind of its own, as discovered by Sylvester Alphonso during his foray into bird photography.

It has been ten months since I have been associated with T.S. Rahaman Academy (TSRA) as a marine instructor. The institute is 125 years old and is steeped in rich history. Being a wild life photographer for National Geographic, Shutter stock & Getty images, I have photographed over 90 species of birds in these ten months of my association with the institute. One of these birds is the coucal.

The coucal is also known as a pheasant crow, a member of the cuckoo family. The most common coucal seen are the greater coucal and the southern coucal. The greater coucal has lighter coloured feathers with a white patch while it’s recently split cousin, the southern coucal has dark black feathers. The greater coucal also has a light coloured beak, while the southern coacal’s beak is dark black.

The coucal in hindi is sometimes referred to as bharadwaj pakshi. It is believed to be the reincarnation of the lord Vishnu in common lore of Hindu mythology. It is a common tradition to fold hands and bow in reverence while doing a namaskar whenever one spots this bird .

This bird is mainly found in low grassland areas. I have seen this bird hopping and hiding in the bushes, almost as if it was aware of my watch and hence it watched me and my movements. I have noticed it never flies away immediately if it is disturbed in the bushes, truly an intelligent and brave creature.

About the Author /

Sylvester Alphonso has worked as faculty in the Bureau of Maritime affairs, Gulf Coast training technologies and Great Eastern as marine instructor. He is passionate about nature and conservation, as well as birding and photography. He has won several awards including those for owning the highest collection of CDs and DVDs and the highest collection of photographs, India Book of Records, 2012.


  • Laxman

    April 25, 2019

    Awesome artical

  • Dr. Asif

    May 2, 2019

    Good work Mr. Alphonso!

  • Rudolph Furtado

    May 4, 2019

    Good photograph and explained in simple layman’s language with also a reference to the bird in Indian traditional culture.

  • Nirupa Ramanna

    July 10, 2020


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