The Burchell’s coucal is a medium-sized bird with a length of around 41 cm. The back and wings are rufous-brown, with white underparts. The head, bill, legs and feet are black. This coucal has a red-eye.
The Burchell’s coucal is more often heard than seen, with its distinctive cascade of bubbling, “water being poured from a water bottle”, call. This coucal seldom flies and will clamber around the thick vegetation it prefers to inhabit. When it does fly, it is low and fast with short bursts of flapping followed with gliding.
The Burchell’s coucal is a voracious hunter and feeds on a wide range of prey, such as lizards, chameleons, small mammals, insects, small amphibians, small birds and eggs. They have even been seen stalking mice in the same manner as a domestic cat.
The Burchell’s coucal is a near-endemic to South Africa and is found in the Highveld, Lowveld and along the coastline to Cape Town. It is absent from most of the interior areas of the country.
The Burchell’s coucal favours river banks, usually in rank vegetation or forest drainage lines. With the increase in farming in these areas, it is now favouring sugar cane plantations.