Tapera naeviastriped cuckoo

Geographic Range

Tapera naevia, commonly known as the striped cuckoo, is found from southern Mexico to southwestern Ecuador, as well as in northern Argentina and southeastern Brazil. (Stiles and Skutch, 1989)


Striped cuckoos occupy tropical habitats, which commonly include grasslands and scrub forests from sea level to 1400 m in elevation. These birds are usually found near the edge of forests, in areas with scattered shrubs and trees. Less commonly they are round in tropical bogs. ("Tapera naevia", 2006; Johnsgard, 1997; Smith and Smith, 2000)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1400 m
    0.00 to 4593.18 ft

Physical Description

Striped cuckoos are average sized cuckoos, with an average mass of 55 g, and approximately 30 cm in length. Average wingspan of males is 112.4 mm (range from 108 to 117.5 mm), and of females is 108.2 mm (raange from 104 to 112 mm). Striped cuckoos have relatively long tails, averaging 157.7 mm in males and 146.2 mm in females. (Johnsgard, 1997)

At hatching striped cuckoos are featherless, with pink skin and a yellow-orange gape. Feathers are grown after approximately ten days. Immature striped cuckoos are characterized by a black head, black markings on the neck, wavy black markings on the underside, and yellow spots on the feathers of the upper body. Adults are overall brown in color, and are distinguished by a shaggy crest and black streaks along the back. The feathers of the adult's long tail are gray-brown and white tipped. The adult also has abnormally large, dark alulas feathers (the alulas is a joint in the middle of the bird's wing), giving it the common name "four-winged cuckoo." Adult females and males are nearly identical in appearance. (Johnsgard, 1997; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    55 g
    1.94 oz
  • Average length
    30 cm
    11.81 in
  • Range wingspan
    99 to 112 mm
    3.90 to 4.41 in
  • Average wingspan
    108 mm
    4.25 in


There is little available information regarding reproduction in Tapera naevia and other cuckoo species. Striped cuckoos use songs to attract mates, in other cuckoo species one female will mate "at random with males." Striped cuckoos are brood parasites (neither males nor females provide parental care to offspring) suggesting that they may be promiscuous. (Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Smith and Smith, 2000; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Johnsgard, 1997; Smith and Smith, 2000)

There is little available information regarding general reproductive behavior in Tapera naevia. Although records are limited, breeding and reproduction have been observed from January until October, suggesting that striped cuckoos breed nearly year round. The number of offspring produced each breeding season is unknown; however, other cuckoo species produce approximately one to five eggs each breeding season. The incubation period for striped cuckoo eggs is, on average, 15 days. The young are fledged and leave the nest after 18 to 20 days. (Barrett, et al., 1997; Johnsgard, 1997; Leahy, 2004)

Striped cuckoos are brood parasites; adult females lay their eggs in the nest of another bird species. They lay their eggs just after dawn, and usually choose host species with covered or dome shaped nests. The host species is "tricked" into caring extensively for young that are not its own. Striped cuckoos have more than 20 documented host species. They are obligate brood parasites, they do not build nests or incubate eggs. After hatching, young Tapera naevia nestlings remain in the nest for approximately 18 to 20 days, after which they fledge. (Johnsgard, 1997; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

  • Breeding interval
    The striped cuckoo breeding interval is not known.
  • Breeding season
    Striped cuckoos may breed throughout much of the year, from January through October.
  • Average time to hatching
    15 days
  • Range fledging age
    18 to 20 days

Striped cuckoos are brood parasites; there is no post-egg laying parental investment. (Johnsgard, 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


There is little available information regarding the lifespan striped cuckoos and other cuckoos.


Striped cuckoos are solitary birds, active during the day. They tend to stay within the cover of shrubs. (Johnsgard, 1997; Land, 1970; Smith and Smith, 2000)

When frightened or disturbed, striped cuckoos will flash their alulas. (Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

Home Range

There is little available information regarding the home range of Tapera naevia or other cuckoo species.

Communication and Perception

Striped cuckoos have three distinct song types. Each song type is used to communicate with neighbors, mates, and intruders. Furthermore, each song type is used to communicate its "readiness to interact" to its neighbor, mate, or intruder. One song is bisyllabic; the second syllable has a higher pitch and is accented. Another song consists of five to six syllables; the last syllable has a lower pitch that the first four to five. A third song consists of four short syllables; again, the last syllable has a lower pitch, and is much shorter, than the first three. Songs are whistled, and repeated for minutes at five to ten second increments. During a song, striped cuckoos raise and lower their crest, and may lower their wings. Songs are occasionally sung in duets (commonly by mating birds), and striped cuckoos will respond to birds that imitate their songs. (Peterson and Chalif, 1973; Smith and Smith, 2000)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • duets

Food Habits

There is little available information regarding the food habits of striped cuckoos. They eat insects (Insecta), mostly grasshoppers (Orthoptera). Other cuckoo species are omnivores, also eating insects, in addition to spiders (Araneae), fruits, seeds, and even small vertebrates. (Leahy, 2004; Peterson and Chalif, 1973; Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects


There is little available information regarding predation on striped cuckoos. When striped cuckoos are frightened or disturbed, they will flash their alulas. (Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

Ecosystem Roles

Striped cuckoos are interspecific brood parasites with over 20 host species, listed below. The first 17 listed are well-documented hosts while the last four are probable or minor hosts. (Johnsgard, 1997)

Striped cuckoo parasitism is believed to have a negative effect on both the nests and fecundity of host species. In other cuckoo species, the young cuckoo will remove the eggs of the host from the nest or kill the host's young, forcing the host to devote its attention solely to the young cuckoo. (Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Johnsgard, 1997)

Species Used as Host

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Tapera naevia on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of Tapera naevia on humans.

Conservation Status

Tapera naevia appears to be expanding its range, most likely in response to recent deforestation. (Stiles and Skutch, 1989)

Other Comments

Cuckoos, in general, derive their name from the sound of their calls. Tapera naevia is the only cuckoo in its range with a striped back, and is therefore commonly called the striped cuckoo. (Leahy, 2004; Peterson and Chalif, 1973)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Lauren Kroll (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


2006. "Tapera naevia" (On-line). 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed October 15, 2006 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/47894/all.

Barrett, N., C. Bernstein, R. Brown, J. Connor, K. Dunham, P. Dunne, J. Farrand, Jr., D. Hopes, K. Kaufman, N. Lavers, M. Leister, R. Marsi, W. Petersen, J. Pierson, A. Pistorius, J. Toups. 1997. Book of North American Birds. United States of America: Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birder's Handbook A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. Simon & Schuster, Inc..

Johnsgard, P. 1997. The Avian Brood Parasites Deception at the Nest. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc..

Land, H. 1970. Birds of Guatemala. Wynnewood, Pennsylvania: Livingston Publishing Company.

Leahy, C. 2004. The Birdwatcher's Companion to North American Birdlife. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Peterson, R., E. Chalif. 1973. A Field Guide to Mexican Birds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Smith, W., A. Smith. 2000. Information About Behavior is Provided by Songs of the Striped Cuckoo. The Wilson Bulletin, 112/4: 491-497. Accessed October 15, 2006 at http://0-www.bioone.org.ariadne.kzoo.edu/perlserv/?request=get-document&issn=0043-5643&volume=112&issue=04&page=0491.

Stiles, F., A. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.