Sirkeer Malkoha in Rajaji National Park

Welcome to the Jungle Safari Rajaji National Park blog page. The Indian subcontinent boasts a rich tapestry of avian life, and among its fascinating residents is the Sirkeer Malkoha (Taccocua leschenaultii). Often shrouded in secrecy due to its terrestrial habits, this non-parasitic cuckoo holds a unique place in the ecological web. This article delves into the world of the Sirkeer Malkoha, exploring its physical characteristics, behavior, habitat preferences, and the challenges it faces in a rapidly changing environment.

A Striking Appearance, Grounded Demeanor

The Sirkeer Malkoha is a captivating bird, measuring around 45 cm in length. Its plumage is predominantly olive-brown on the upperparts, offering excellent camouflage amidst the dry scrub forests and open woodlands it calls home. The underparts are typically a lighter shade, sometimes with a yellowish tinge. A distinctive feature is the long, graduated tail, with the outer feathers sporting broad white tips that flash prominently during flight.

Sirkeer Malkoha
Sirkeer Malkoha

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Sirkeer Malkoha is its beak. Curved and robust, it’s a vibrant cherry red tipped with yellow, adding a touch of vibrancy to its otherwise subdued appearance. Interestingly, both sexes share identical plumage, making it difficult to distinguish between males and females at a glance.

Unlike its parasitic cousins, the Sirkeer Malkoha is a dedicated ground dweller. Its strong legs and long, curved claws are perfectly adapted for navigating the dense undergrowth and rocky terrain it frequents. While it can fly, it prefers short bursts to escape danger or move between foraging patches. This preference for a terrestrial lifestyle has earned it the nickname “The Serpent Bird” in some local communities.

A Life on the Ground

The Sirkeer Malkoha is a solitary bird, often seen foraging alone or in pairs. They are predominantly insectivores, meticulously searching the leaf litter and low vegetation for beetles, grasshoppers, and other invertebrates. Their diet also includes lizards, fallen fruit, and occasionally even seeds. Their curved beak is a valuable tool for probing crevices and unearthing hidden prey.

Sirkeer Malkohas are generally shy and secretive, rarely venturing out into the open. Their cryptic plumage and terrestrial habits make them challenging to spot, adding to their air of mystery. They are primarily diurnal, with peak activity observed in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Their vocalizations are relatively subdued, with a low, mournful whistle being their most common call.

Sirkeer Malkoha
Sirkeer Malkoha

Breeding and Nesting Habits

The breeding season for the Sirkeer Malkoha typically coincides with the monsoon months, from June to September. Unlike parasitic cuckoos, they are dedicated parents and build their own nests. These nests are crafted from twigs and leaves, often placed low in a dense bush or tree for better concealment. The clutch size is usually two or three eggs, which are incubated by both parents for around 14-16 days. The chicks are altricial, meaning they are helpless at birth and require parental care for several weeks until they fledge.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat Preferences

The Sirkeer Malkoha is primarily found throughout the Indian subcontinent, ranging from the sub-Himalayan regions to Sri Lanka. They are also present patchily in parts of Pakistan and Rajasthan. Their preferred habitat is dry scrub forests, open woodlands, and scrub jungles with dense undergrowth. They can also be found in degraded forests, plantations, and even gardens bordering these areas.

Three subspecies of the Sirkeer Malkoha have been identified, with slight variations in plumage coloration across their geographical range. The nominate subspecies, T. l. leschenaultii, is found across Peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The populations in the Eastern Himalayas are darker and larger, classified as T. l. infuscata. Finally, the populations in northwestern India (Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Sind) are paler with a yellowish throat and breast, categorized as T. l. sirkee.

Sirkeer Malkoha
Sirkeer Malkoha

Conservation Challenges and the Future

The Sirkeer Malkoha is currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. However, it does face some threats to its long-term survival. Habitat loss due to deforestation and conversion of land for agriculture is a significant concern. The use of pesticides and insecticides can also impact their prey base. Additionally, competition for resources from invasive species can further strain their populations.

Conservation efforts need to focus on protecting existing habitats, promoting afforestation programs with native plant species, and raising awareness about the importance of this unique bird. Studies to better understand their population dynamics and ecological needs are also crucial.

Sirkeer Malkoha
Sirkeer Malkoha


The Sirkeer Malkoha is a fascinating avian resident of the Indian subcontinent. Its shy demeanor and preference for a life on the ground make it an enigmatic creature. Understanding its role in the ecosystem and addressing the threats it faces is vital for ensuring its continued

FAQs about Sirkeer Malkoha

What is a Sirkeer Malkoha?

The Sirkeer Malkoha (Taccocua leschenaultii) is a non-parasitic cuckoo found in dry scrub forests and open woodlands of the Indian subcontinent.

What does a Sirkeer Malkoha look like?

It’s a medium-sized bird (around 45 cm) with olive-brown upperparts, a lighter underside, and a long, graduated tail with white tips. The most distinctive feature is its curved, red beak with a yellow tip.

Where do Sirkeer Malkohas live?

They prefer dry scrub forests, open woodlands, and scrub jungles with dense undergrowth. They can also adapt to degraded forests, plantations, and even gardens bordering these areas.

What do Sirkeer Malkohas eat?

They are primarily insectivores, feeding on beetles, grasshoppers, and other invertebrates. Their diet also includes lizards, fallen fruit, and occasionally even seeds.

Why are they called “The Serpent Bird” in some areas?

This nickname stems from their preference for foraging on the ground, similar to how some snakes hunt.

Are Sirkeer Malkohas good fliers?

While they can fly, they prefer short bursts for escape or moving between foraging areas. They are primarily ground dwellers.

How do Sirkeer Malkohas reproduce?

Unlike parasitic cuckoos, they build their own nests and are dedicated parents. They breed during the monsoon months (June-September), laying 2-3 eggs which are incubated by both parents.

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