Described as Coccyzus melacoryphus by Vieillot 1817, with a type locality of Paraguay.
Sorenson and Payne (2005) divide the cuckoos into five subfamilies, based on a phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequence data (from the ND2 and 12S ribosomal RNA genes). Coccyzus falls in the subfamily Cuculinae, which is global in distribution. The sister genus to Coccyzus is the Neotropical genus Piaya.
Within Coccyzus, Sorenson and Payne identified two clades. Coccyzus melacoryphus is basal to a clade that consists of two pairs of sister species, Coccyzus americanus (Yellow-billed Cuckoo) and Coccyzus euleri (Pearly-breasted Cuckoo); and Coccyzus minor (Mangrove Cuckoo) and Coccyzus ferrugineus (Cocos Cuckoo).