Dark-form birds differ from the similar Black cuckoo by the noticable crest and the white patches on the primaries visible from above and below. Light morph birds resemble Leviallant's cuckoo but are pure white below, lacking any stripes on the throat and breast.
Juvenile is browner above. Dark morph juvenile has dull black underparts; light morph juvenile has creamy grey underparts.
Woodlands, especially thornveld. Dark morph is mainly coastal; pale morph is mainly found in the interior.
A shrill, repeated 'klee-klee-kleeuu-kleeuu', indistinguishable from the start of Leviallant's cuckoo's call.