Coua gigas

Least Concern

©Mario Mairal

Least Concern

22-24 inches (58-62 cm) length
14 ounces (415 g) weight

Deciduous forest
Sub-arid scrub

Insects, small reptiles, and seeds


Habitat Loss


With long legs, giant couas can leap up into the air to catch flying insects on the wing.

In breeding season, a male and female form a monogamous bond, and they both raise their chicks.


In shades of olive, russet, bronze, and black, the giant coua makes a statement in its Madagascar forest home. The startling bright blue and pink around the eyes is bare skin and perhaps used to catch the eye of a mate. The long legs and long, clawed toes are well designed for sauntering through the brush while on the hunt for food.

©Allan Hopkins

Foods and Feeding

Giant couas are primarily ground feeders, foraging through the leaf litter searching for insects, small reptiles, and seeds. Their feet rustle out insects hiding under the leaves, which are then snapped up by the sharp, slightly curved beak. Giant couas are speedy runners and can also leap up into the air to snatch flying insects.


These birds are usually quiet, secretive, and elusive, except for breeding season when they make deep, resonant calls from a low perch. They spend most of their time on the ground and seldom fly, preferring to run quickly if startled. They are found singly, in pairs, and in small family groups.

©Markus Lilje

Habitat Use

These birds are found in the coastal lowlands of southern and western Madagascar, in open forests and semi-arid thorn scrub. They have been noted to nest in Acacia or Tamarindus trees, and require sufficient vegetation cover and leaf litter on the forest floor to host their insect food.

©Micha Baum

Reproduction and Life Cycle

From October to December, a monogamous pair of giant couas set up housekeeping, using twigs, bark, and large leaves to build a bowl-shaped nest in a tree, between 3 and 10 meters above the ground. The nest is woven around vines in dense vegetation to keep it sturdy. The female lays up to three white eggs, which hatch in January. Both the male and the female participate in raising the chicks. Although giant couas are in the cuckoo family, they don’t follow the practice of some cuckoos that lay their eggs in a different bird’s nest, then leave it for the “foster parent” bird to raise.

Conservation and Threats

Like other Madagascar species, giant couas face the threat of deforestation and habitat loss. They are also sometimes trapped and hunted as food. Fortunately, they are fairly common in places with intact forest, and their population is currently stable.