The pied plumage (though some birds are almost entirely black) gave rise to the Jacobin Cuckoo’s name as it is reminiscent of the clothes of Dominican monks, aka Jacobins. It is found in South Africa only during our warmer months, visiting us from the Indian subcontinent and further north in Africa between October and April. While here they’re most common in the northern and central parts of the country, although they are also found in lower densities in parts of the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces. Jacobin Cuckoos inhabit a wide variety of savanna and woodland habitats. They feed mainly on caterpillars which they catch among the greenery. The IUCN considers it to be of least concern.
Being a brood parasite, the female Jacobin Cuckoo will lay her eggs in the nests of other birds, with about 17 host species recorded locally. Of these they mainly target the Cape, Red-eyed and Dark-capped Bulbuls, Sombre Greenbul and Common Fiscal. In a breeding season the pair may lay up to 25 eggs, one per nest, by working together – the male distracts the hosts from their nest while the female then sneaks in to lay the egg, usually without hurting the other eggs already in the nest. The Cuckoo egg then hatches after about two weeks of being incubated by the surrogate parents, and usually does not evict its nest mates like many other cuckoos do, though by claiming most of the food brought back to the nest it may still cause the other chicks to starve. The chick stays in the nest for almost 3 weeks after hatching and leaves its adoptive parents when it is about a month old. Fully grown they weigh about 80g and are around 34cm long.