The call of this species is its most diagnostic feature. The barred (not spotted) undertail distinguishes it from Common Cuckoo. In Oct/Nov this species' plumage is fresh and migrant Common Cuckoo's plumage is worn and in heavy moult. The reverse is true in March/April.
Female resembles male but also occurs in a rare rufous form. Jevenile has underparts and head entirely barred with black and white, and the upperparts blackish, scalloped with white.
Woodland and savanna.
Similar to African Hoopoe's 'hoop-hoop' call but slower; female utters a fast 'kik-kik-kik'.