Oriental Cuckoo

Cuculus saturatus

There are approximately 12 accepted records of this species from North America, all from Western Alaska. The three Saint Paul records are all from summer or fall. The first was on July 4, 1890, the second was from July 10-11, 1989, and the most recent was of a juvenile that lingered from September 21 to October 1, 2004. It would seem that Cuckoos that appear in spring (May and early June) are virtually certain to be Common Cuckoos, while those that appear in summer and fall are most likely Orientals. There would likely be many more records for this species in Alaska were it not for the difficulty associated with the separation of this species from the more regularly occurring Common Cuckoo. Unless close and prolonged views, especially of the underwing and rump pattern are obtained it is best to record sightings as Cuckoo sp. however disheartening that may be. The long-sighted fieldmark of the width of the black belly bars (supposedly thicker in Oriental) is of questionable use in the field. On hepatic morph birds check the rump, which is streaked in Oriental but plain red on Common. For gray morph birds, the Oriental Cuckoo should show a darker back and rump, and almost black secondaries and seconday coverts. The underwing of Oriental Cuckoo should show a large unmarked white bar through the primary coverts (this is barred in Common). Oriental Cuckoos also have smaller, thinner and slightly more curved bills than Common Cuckoos. Look for Cuckoos along roadside edges, where they flush much like small falcons, or anywhere where they can find some shelter from the wind. All current records of Oriental Cuckoo appear to pertain to the northerly breeding subspeciesCuculus saturatus horsfieldiwhich some European authors split from the more southerly breeding subspecies.