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22

Pied Butcherbird

(Cracticus nigrogularis)
Alternative names: "Black-throated Butcher-bird", "Black-throated Crow-shrike", "Organbird", "Break-o'day Boy"
Size: 33-36 cm
Weight: 150 g (average)

Similar species

SUBSECTIONS:     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Taxonomy, classification

See Pied Butcherbird at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

(for details refer to a field guide)

Click here to display information on habitat, range and finding this species

Sightings

Pied Butcherbirds, race "nigrogularis", are common birds in the area around Narrabri, NSW. During their breeding season, their whistles are always audible over long distances.

Click here to display more sighting information

Photos

Race "nigrogularis"

Near-frontal view of a Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Near-lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

This lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird clearly shows the viciously hooked bill (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, January 2013]

Close-up portrait of a Pied Butcherbird nicking a piece of chicken fat
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Lateral portrait of a Pied Butcherbird
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

If, as an insect, a Pied Butcherbird looks at you like that and you don't heed the warning...
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

... this is the logical end - Pied Butcherbird with its prey
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Frontal view of a Pied Butcherbird adorning a flagpost
[Near Narrabri, NSW, April 2006]

Lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird
[Near Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Dorsal view of a Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, August 2013]

Two Pied Butcherbirds practising their warble
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2005]

Here a closer view of a Pied Butcherbird issuing its territorial call
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2008]

Pied Butcherbird that has found human leftovers in an urban park
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2010]

Lateral view of an immature Pied Butcherbird after preening
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2008]

Here another immature Pied Butcherbird hunting from a post
[Warrumbungle NP, NSW, April 2011]

Lateral view of an immature Pied Butcherbird
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2010]

The same Pied Butcherbird as above, now with an insect it has just caught
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2010]

Near-lateral view of a juvenile Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2013]

Juvenile Pied Butcherbird begging to be fed
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Juvenile Pied Butcherbird being fed what looks like a cricket (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2013]

Race "picatus"

Lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird scavenging food (photo courtesy of S. Kirkby)
[Near Darwin, NT, 2011]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Nov Eggs: 3 - 5 Incubation period: 20 - 21 days Fledging age: 30 - 32 days

Pied Butcherbirds, especially females (who incubate the eggs and carry most of the responsibility for caring for the chicks), are very protective of their nests. They are one of a few bird species that swoop on humans and they are not afraid of making contact and drawing blood to get their message across.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = Nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, with grass and/or other soft lining Height above ground: 3 - 15 m

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 32 x 24 mm Colour: Brown, with dark-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Pair

Pied Butcherbirds can be very nosy (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

We have watched a Pied Butcherbird "butcher" a lizard by wedging it into a fork of two branches and then tearing away with its hooked bill (see photos above).

Like other territorial species, Pied Butcherbirds have a call that is used only at the crack of dawn to mark their territory. It took us a long time to find out which bird was issuing that call. The photo below shows the bird.

Pied Butcherbird marking its territory at the crack of dawn (about half an hour before sunrise) - left: original photo; right: digitally enhanced version to show the bird more clearly
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Just like Australian Magpies, Pied Currawongs and other birds, Pied Butcherbirds are not strong enough to fight Willie Wagtails near their nests during the breeding season.

The following set of photos shows behaviour we have observed only once, when an immature Pied Butcherbird apparently begged to be fed by a Striped Honeyeater.

Immature Pied Butcherbird perched on a twig in a tree
[Near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2006]

Next thing, a Striped Honeyeater joins the immature Pied Butcherbird, singing its song
[Near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2006]

Seconds later, the young Pied Butcherbird starts begging for food...
[Near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2006]

Butcherbirds are the Australian relatives of shrikes on other continents, which are known to spear their prey, e.g. insects, on spikes. We have observed such behaviour in Australia (see photos below).

Beetle left behind on a barbed wire by a butcherbird, most likely a Pied Butcherbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2012]

Beetle left behind on a barbed wire by a butcherbird, most likely a Pied Butcherbird (seen from the other side now)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2012]

Pied Butcherbirds are one of the bird species whose young display playful behaviour.

Two immature Pied Butcherbirds playing; here the "bone of contention" is a piece of bark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2013]

Food, Diet

Like all members of the Cracticus family, Pied Butcherbirds are carnivores. They take animals from the size of large ants up to small birds or small lizards. As nest robbers they are feared by other bird species. They earn their name by wedging larger prey into forks of branches and then ripping it apart.

Pied Butcherbird that has found human leftovers in an urban park
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2010]

Immature Pied Butcherbird with an insect it has just caught
[Narrabri, NSW, September 2010]

Immature Pied Butcherbird scavenging for food scraps, in this case bread (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Call/s

For this species we have recorded the following call/s. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

pibutch_art_20131114.mp3 nigrogularis (SE QLD) Contact call ART
pibutch_20140116.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Territorial call MD
pibutch_20140117.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Territorial call (partial) MD
pibutch_20140220_2.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Territorial call (partial) MD
pibutch_20140120.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Pair Q&A MD
pibutch_20140120_3.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Pair Q&A MD
pibutch_20140220_3.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Pair Q&A MD
pibutch_20140220.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Pair Q&A MD
pibutch_20140409_2.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Pair Q&A (distant, eerie) MD
pibutch_20140120_5.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Annoyed call MD
pibutch_20140120_6.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Annoyed call (juvenile fending off Noisy Miner) MD
pibutch_art_20131127.mp3 nigrogularis (SE QLD) Feeding call ART
pibutch_20140121.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Begging call (juvenile) MD
pibutch_art_20131107.mp3 nigrogularis (SE QLD) Idle chatter ART
pibutch_art_20131214.mp3 nigrogularis (SE QLD) Various ART
pibutch_art_20131217.mp3 nigrogularis (SE QLD) Various ART
pibutch_20140409.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) Various MD
pibutch_20140120_4.mp3 nigrogularis (NW NSW) ? MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.