Cuckoo roller

The cuckoo roller or courol (Leptosomus discolor)[2] is the only bird in the family Leptosomidae, which was previously often placed in the order Coraciiformes but is now placed in its own order Leptosomiformes. Its nearest relative is not clear. Morphological evidence may suggest a placement in or near to Falconiformes. In the rather comprehensive DNA study by Hackett et al,[3] this and the hoatzin are the only two birds whose position is unclear, although the cuckoo roller seems to be at the root of a group that contains the Trogoniformes, Bucerotiformes, Piciformes, and Coraciiformes.

It is a medium-large bird, inhabiting forests and woodlands in Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. Three subspecies are described: the nominate L. d. discolor is found in Madagascar and Mayotte Island, L. d. intermedius on Anjouan, and L. d. gracilis of Grand Comoro. Based on its smaller size, differences in the plumage, and minor difference in the voice, the last of these is sometimes considered a separate species, the Comoro cuckoo roller (L. gracilis).

Cuckoo roller
Female or juvenile
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Leptosomiformes
Sharpe, 1891
Family: Leptosomidae
Blyth, 1838
Genus: Leptosomus
Vieillot, 1816
L. discolor
Binomial name
Leptosomus discolor
(Hermann, 1783)


Male cuckoo roller
The cuckoo roller exhibits a pronounced sexual dichromatism in the plumage.

The cuckoo roller has a total length of 40–50 cm (16–20 in); the nominate subspecies is the largest, and L. d. gracilis the smallest. Unlike the true rollers and ground rollers, where the sexes have identical appearance, the cuckoo roller is sexually dichromatic. Males have a mostly velvety grey chest and head, changing gradually to white on the remaining underparts (the demarcation between grey and white is stronger in L. d. gracilis). The back, tail, and wing-coverts are dark iridescent green with a purplish tinge (especially on the wing-coverts), and the crown and eye-stripe are black. Females are mostly brown, with strongly dark-spotted pale underparts (less spotting in L. d. gracilis). Juveniles are generally reported as resembling a dull female, but at least juveniles of L. d. gracilis are sexually dimorphic, and this also possibly applies to the other subspecies. The bill is stout and the eyes are set far back in the face. The legs and feet are small, and the feet have an unusual structure which has confused many ornithologists, but is now thought to be zygodactylous (two toes forwards, two toes backwards).[2]

Distribution and habitat

The cuckoo roller occupies a wide variety of habitats, including altered areas. They inhabit forest, including rainforest, litoral forest, deciduous forest, spiny bush-forest, and tree plantations. In the Comoros, the species is found on all the major islands, particularly in forested zones. It can be found from near sea level up to 2000 m.[2]

Behaviour and ecology

The diet of the cuckoo roller is not well known, but a 1931 expedition found that chameleons and insects, particularly locusts and caterpillars, are important food items.[2] Stomachs have often been found to be lined with caterpillar hairs, and other prey taken include grasshoppers, cicadas, stick insects, and geckos. The principal foraging technique is to perch motionless, watching for prey, then to make a quick sally towards the prey when observed. They also hunt from the air. Prey is caught in the large bill and killed by beating it against a branch.

Very few studies have investigated the breeding habits of the cuckoo roller. It has been described in the past as a polygamous breeder, but no evidence for this is available.[2] The nest is located in tall trees, 4–6 m (13–20 ft) off the ground, in natural cavities. No lining is placed inside the cavity; the white eggs are laid directly on the bottom. The usual clutch size is around four eggs. Incubation is performed by the female only, while the male feeds her. The incubation period is about 20 days, after which fluffy chicks are born. Chicks remain in the nest for 30 days before fledging.

Status and conservation

The species is not generally hunted and has proven resistant to habitat change that has threatened other native birds. It is assessed as Least Concern by the IUCN.[1] The distribution of the cuckoo roller is vast, and populations in Madagascar persist in small forest fragments. Areas with abundant populations include broad expanses of forest associated with reserves such as Zahamena, Andringitra, Andohahela, and Marojejy.[2]

Relations with humans

The cuckoo roller is very tame, and it is generally not disturbed by the inhabitants of Madagascar, many of whom have legends and myths about the species. It is often considered a good omen, as the harbinger of clear weather and (because it is often seen in pairs) as associated with couples and love.


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Leptosomus discolor". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f del Hoyo, J. Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (2001)
  3. ^ Hacket et al. (2008)

Further reading

  • del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (2001). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 6: Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-87334-30-X.
  • Hackett, Shannon; Kimball, Rebecca; Reddy, Sushma; Bowie, Rauri; Braun, Edward; Braun, Michael; Chojnowski, Jena; Cox, Andrew; Han, Kin-Lan; Harshman, John; Christopher, Huddleston; Marks, Ben; Miglia, Kathleen; Moore, William; Sheldon, Frederick; Steadman, David; Witt, Christopher; Yuri, Tamaki (2008), "A Phylogenomic Study of Birds Reveals Their Evolutionary History", Science, 320 (5884): 1763–1768, doi:10.1126/science.1157704, PMID 18583609

External links


Afroaves is a clade of birds, consisting of the kingfishers and kin (Coraciiformes), woodpeckers and kin (Piciformes), hornbills and kin (Bucerotiformes), trogons (Trogoniformes), cuckoo roller (Leptosomatiformes), mousebirds (Coliiformes), owls (Strigiformes), raptors (Accipitriformes) and New World vultures (Cathartiformes). The most basal clades are predatory, suggesting the last common ancestor of the group was also.

Cladogram of Afroaves relationships based on Prum, R.O. et al. (2015) with some clade names after Yury, T. et al. (2013) and Kimball et al. 2013.


The bluebirds are a group of medium-sized, mostly insectivorous or omnivorous birds in the order of Passerines in the genus Sialia of the thrush family (Turdidae). Bluebirds are one of the few thrush genera in the Americas. They have blue, or blue and rose beige, plumage. Female birds are less brightly colored than males, although color patterns are similar and there is no noticeable difference in size between the two sexes.


Cavitaves is a clade that contain the order Leptosomatiformes (cuckoo roller) and the clade Eucavitaves (a large assemblage of birds that includes woodpeckers, kingfishers and trogons). The name refers to the fact that the majority of them nest in cavities.


The Coraciiformes are a group of usually colorful birds including the kingfishers, the bee-eaters, the rollers, the motmots, and the todies. They generally have syndactyly, with three forward-pointing toes (and toes 3 & 4 fused at their base), though in many kingfishers one of these is missing.

This is largely an Old World order, with the representation in the New World limited to the dozen or so species of todies and motmots, and a mere handful of the more than a hundred species of kingfishers.

The name Coraciiformes means "raven-like", which is a misnomer (ravens are passerines). Specifically, it comes from the Latin language "corax", meaning "raven" and Latin "forma", meaning "form", which is the standard ending for bird orders.


Coraciimorphae is a clade of birds that contains the order Coliiformes (mousebirds) and the clade Cavitaves (a large assemblage of birds that includes woodpeckers, kingfishers and trogons). The name however was coined in the 1990s by Sibley and Ahlquist based on their DNA-DNA hybridization studies conducted in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. However their Coraciimorphae only contain Trogoniformes and Coraciiformes.

Cladogram of Coraciimorphae relationships based on Jarvis, E.D. et al. (2014) with some clade names after Yury, T. et al. (2013).

Endemic birds of Madagascar and western Indian Ocean islands

This article is one of a series providing information about endemism among birds in the world's various zoogeographic zones. For an overview of this subject see Endemism in birds.


Eucavitaves is a clade that contain the order Trogoniformes (trogons) and the clade Picocoraciae (a large assemblage of birds that includes woodpeckers, kingfishers, hornbills and hoopoes). The name refers to the fact that the majority of them nest in cavities.

Cladogram of Eucavitaves relationships based on Jarvis, E.D. et al. (2014) with some clade names after Yury, T. et al. (2013) and Kimball 2013.

L. gracilis

L. gracilis may refer to:

Laosaurus gracilis, a dinosaur species from the late Cretaceous of Alberta

Laxmannia gracilis, a tufted perennial herb species in the genus Laxmannia endemic to Australia

Leiopython gracilis, a non-venomous python species

Leptoceratops gracilis, a primitive ceratopsian dinosaur species

Leptodactylus gracilis, a frog species

Leptolalax gracilis, a frog species found in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and possibly Thailand

Leptosomus gracilis, the Comoro Cuckoo-roller, a bird species

Litsea gracilis, a plant species endemic to Malaysia

List of birds

This page lists living orders and families of birds. The links below should then lead to family accounts and hence to individual species.

The passerines (perching birds) alone account for well over 5000 species. In total there are about 10,000 species of birds described worldwide, though one estimate of the real number places it at almost twice that.

Taxonomy is very fluid in the age of DNA analysis, so comments are made where appropriate, and all numbers are approximate. In particular see Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy for a very different classification.

List of birds by common name

In this list of birds by common name, a total of 9,722 extant and recently extinct bird species are recognised, belonging to a total of 204 families.

List of birds of the Comoros

This is a list of the bird species recorded in the Comoros. The avifauna of the Comoros include a total of 146 species, of which 14 are endemic, 6 have been introduced by humans, and 23 are rare or accidental. 9 species are globally threatened.This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 6th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts for the Comoros.

The following tags have been used to highlight several categories. The commonly occurring native species do not fall into any of these categories.

(A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in the Comoros

(E) Endemic - a species endemic to the Comoros

(I) Introduced - a species introduced to the Comoros as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions


The mousebirds (family Coliidae, order Coliiformes) are a family of birds. They are the sister group to the clade Eucavitaves, which includes the cuckoo roller (Leptosomatiformes), trogons (Trogoniformes), Bucerotiformes, Coraciformes and Piciformes. The mousebirds are therefore given order status as Coliiformes. This group is confined to sub-Saharan Africa, and is the only bird order confined entirely to that continent. They had a wider range in prehistoric times, with a widespread distribution in Europe and North America during the Paleocene.


Neoaves is a clade that consists of all modern birds (Neornithes or Aves) with the exception of Paleognathae (ratites and kin) and Galloanserae (ducks, chickens and kin). Almost 95% of the roughly 10,000 known species of modern birds belong to the Neoaves.

The early diversification of the various neoavian groups occurred very rapidly around the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, and attempts to resolve their relationships with each other have resulted initially in much controversy.

Olive-sided flycatcher

The olive-sided flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) is a passerine bird. It is a medium-sized tyrant flycatcher.


Passerea is a clade of neoavian birds that was proposed by Jarvis et al. (2014). Their genomic analyis recovered two major clades within Neoaves, Passerea and Columbea, and concluded that both clades appear to have many ecologically driven convergent traits.

According to Jarvis (2014), these convergences include the footpropelled diving trait of grebes in Columbea with loons and cormorants in Passerea; the wading-feeding trait of flamingos in Columbea with ibises and egrets in Passerea; and pigeons and sandgrouse in Columbea with shorebirds (killdeer) in Passerea. For Jarvis (2014), these long-known trait and morphological alliances suggest that some of the traditional nongenomic trait classifications are based on polyphyletic assemblages.

Passerea was not recovered in other studies.


Plesiocathartes is a extinct genus of birds that lived during the Eocene to Oligocene period. It currently presents 5 species from Europe and North America. It was originally described related to New World vultures, but however recent studies has uncovered that the genus was more closely related to the cuckoo roller from Madagascar.

Syrinx (bird anatomy)

The syrinx (Greek σύριγξ for pan pipes) is the vocal organ of birds. Located at the base of a bird's trachea, it produces sounds without the vocal folds of mammals. The sound is produced by vibrations of some or all of the membrana tympaniformis (the walls of the syrinx) and the pessulus, caused by air flowing through the syrinx. This sets up a self-oscillating system that modulates the airflow creating the sound. The muscles modulate the sound shape by changing the tension of the membranes and the bronchial openings. The syrinx enables some species of birds (such as parrots, crows, and mynas) to mimic human speech. Unlike the larynx of mammals, the syrinx is located where the trachea forks into the lungs. Birds also have a larynx (or cranial larynx as the syrinx is sometimes referred to as the caudal larynx) at the upper end of the trachea. Thus, lateralization of bird song is possible, with muscles on the left and right branch modulating vibrations independently so that some songbirds can produce more than one sound at a time. Some species of birds, such as New World vultures, lack a syrinx and communicate through throaty hisses.

The position of the syrinx, structure and musculature varies widely across bird groups. In some groups the syrinx covers the lower end of the trachea and the upper parts of the bronchi in which case the syrinx is said to be tracheobronchial, the most frequent form and the one found in all songbirds. The syrinx may be restricted to the bronchi as in some non-passerines, notably the owls, cuckoos and nightjars. The syrinx may also be restricted to the trachea and this is found in a very small number of bird groups that are sometimes known as tracheophonae, a subset of the suboscine passeriformes that include Furnariidae (ovenbirds), Dendrocolaptidae (woodcreepers), Formicariidae (ground antbirds), Thamnophilidae (typical antbirds), Rhinocryptidae (tapaculos), and Conopophagidae (gnateaters). The trachea are covered in partly ossified rings known as tracheal rings. Tracheal rings tend to be complete, while the bronchial rings are C shaped and the unossified part has smooth muscles running along them. The trachea are usual circular or oval in cross section in most birds but are flattened in ibises. The trachea is simple and tubular in ducks. The last few tracheal rings and the first few bronchial rings may fuse to form what is called the tympanic box. At the base of the trachea and at the joint of the bronchi a median dorsoventral structure, the pessulus, may be developed to varying extents. The pessulus is bony in passerines and provides attachment to membranes, anteriorly to the semilunar membranes. The membrane that forms part of the first three bronchial rings is responsible for vibrating and producing the sound in most passerines. These membranes may also be attached to the pessulus. In some species like the hill-myna, Gracula religiosa, there is wide gap between the second and third bronchial semirings where large muscles are attached, allowing the inner diameter to be varied widely. Other muscles are also involved in syringeal control, these can be intrinsic or extrinsic depending on whether they are within the syrinx or attached externally. The extrinsic muscles include the sternotrachealis from the sternum.


The Tadorninae is the shelduck-sheldgoose subfamily of the Anatidae, the biological family that includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl such as the geese and swans.

This group is largely tropical or Southern Hemisphere in distribution, with only two species, the common shelduck and the ruddy shelduck breeding in northern temperate regions, though the crested shelduck (presumed extinct) was also a northern species.

Most of these species have a distinctive plumage, but there is no pattern as to whether the sexes are alike, even within a single genus.


Telluraves (also called land birds or core landbirds) is a recently defined clade of birds with controversial content. Based on most recent genetic studies, the clade unites a variety of bird groups, including the australavians (passerines, parrots, seriamas, and falcons) as well as the afroavians (including the Accipitrimorphae – eagles, hawks, buzzards, vultures etc. – owls and woodpeckers, among others). They appear to be the sister group of a newly defined clade centered on Aequornithes.Given that the most basal extant members of both Afroaves (Accipitrimorphae, Strigiformes) and Australaves (Cariamiformes, Falconiformes) are carnivorous, it has been suggested that the last common ancestor of all Telluraves was probably a predator. Other researchers are skeptical of this assessment, citing the herbivorous cariamiform Strigogyps as evidence to the contrary.

Cladogram of Telluraves relationships based on Prum, R.O. et al. (2015) with some clade names after Yury, T. et al. (2013) and Kimball et al. 2013.

Birds (class: Aves)
Fossil birds
Human interaction

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