Phaenicophaeus curvirostris (Shaw, 1810)
by Nurfahana Binti Mo`in & Ms. Nur Aina Amira Binti Mahyudin
© Aina Amira

Phaenicophaeus curvirostris, known as the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, is a cuckoo belonging to the family Cuculidae (Avibase, 2018). The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha measures approximately 46 cm, including a 26 cm tail. It has a dark oily-green upper side and dark chestnut underparts. The tip of the outer uppermost part of the tail is also chestnut color and the vent is blackish (Robson, 2015). The crown, nape and cheeks are mid-grey. The upper bill is thick and pale yellowish to pale greenish, whereas the facial skin around the eye is red. Eye colour differentiates the male from the female; the male has bright pale blue eyes, whereas the female has golden-yellow to whitish eyes (Robson, 2015).

The local name of the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha is “Cenok Birah, Cenok Dada Coklat, Cenuk Birah” or “Cenuk Dada Perang”. Its habitat ranges from broadleaved evergreen and secondary-growth forests to mature plantations, gardens, and mangroves, up to an altitude of 975 m. It is found in several countries including Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand. The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha is a common resident species and has been observed in several forest reserves, including Kenaboi Forest Reserve and Tioman Island, with the highest population density recorded in Tasek Bera Ramsar Site, Pahang (Ramli et al., 2009; Sodhi et al., 1999; Biun & Buang, 2014).

The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha moves slowly traversing the upper and middle layers of the forest while foraging alongside other species. Its voice is cat-like, with a low clucking sound of kuk kuk kuk… and a faster sound of kok-kok-kok… when disturbed (Robson, 2015). It is the only cuckoo species that builds its nest which looks like a broad, shallow saucer or cup, in a sapling tree about 2.5–10 m above ground, and it raises its own young (Avibase, 2018). The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha is carnivorous and insectivorous, feeding on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, molluscs, nestlings and eggs (Robson, 2015).

According to BirdLife International (2016), the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha is evaluated as Least Concern (LC) in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species because it has a stable population trend and a very large habitat range.


  1. Avibase. (2018). Avibase - The world bird database. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus curvirostris (Shaw, G 1810). Retrieved April 04, 2023, from
  2. BirdLife International. (2016). Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus curvirostris (Version 2–3). Retrieved April 04, 2023, from
  3. Biun, A. & Buang, M.M. (2014). Diversity and abundance of bird communities in Tasek Bera RAMSAR site, Pahang, Malaysia. Journal of Wildlife and Park. 27, 25-34.,%20PAHANG.pdf
  4. Ramli, R., Ya'cob, Z. & Hashim, R. (2009). Diversity of Birds in Kenaboi Forest Reserve, Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. Malaysian Journal of Science 28 (4), 465-480
  5. Robson, C. (2015). Birds of South-East Asia: Second Edition. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  6. Sodhi, N.S., Briffett, C., Lee, B.P.Y-H. & Subaraj, R. (1999). An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Pulau Tioman, Peninsular Malaysia. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplements (6), 125-130
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