Aust birds    Bird names   News   1-26    Habitats    Key plants    Glossary    Plumage    Nests    Tips    Thumbnails    Gen. info    Sponsors    Photos for sale   
NON-PASSERINES     1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10     11     12     13     14 15     16     17     18     19     20     21     22     23     24     25     26     PASSERINES
Common names sorted alphabetically: A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   W   Y  
Have birds left a mess around your place? We recommend to try a professional cleaning service.

20

Rufous Whistler

(Pachycephala rufiventris)
Alternate name(s): "Rufous-breasted Whistler", "Rufous-breasted Thickhead", "Ring Coachman", "Thunderbird*", "Echong", "Little Thrush", "Thunderbird*"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "rufiventris": "bambon" (WA)

Size: 16-17.5 cm
Weight: 25 g (average)

Similar species

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

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Rufous Whistler at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "rufiventris"

ADULT

MALE

Frontal view of a male Rufous Whistler
[Leard State Forest, NSW, November 2012]

Frontal view of a male Rufous Whistler (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, July 2013]

Frontal view of a male Rufous Whistler, different perspective
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Near-lateral view of a male Rufous Whistler
[Leard State Forest, NSW, November 2012]

Lateral view of a male Rufous Whistler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2009]

Lateral view of a male Rufous Whistler, with a clear view of its back
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Dorsal view of a male Rufous Whistler
[Leard State Forest, NSW, November 2012]

Male Rufous Whistler issuing its characteristic call (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Leard State Forest, NSW, November 2012]

FEMALE

Close-up full-frontal view of an heavily streaked female Rufous Whistler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Near-frontal view of a female Rufous Whistler
[Bullawa Creek SCA, NSW, September 2010]

Different perspective of the same Rufous Whistler as shown above
[Bullawa Creek SCA, NSW, September 2010]

Lateral view of a lightly streaked female Rufous Whistler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2013]

Lateral view of a female Rufous Whistler, different posture
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Lateral view of an heavily streaked female Rufous Whistler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Dorsal view of a female Rufous Whistler
[Bullawa Creek SCA, NSW, September 2010]

Dorsal view of a female Rufous Whistler preening...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

... now scratching...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

... and now almost back to normal
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Lateral view of a sub-adult male Rufous Whistler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2014]

Lateral view of a sub-adult male Rufous Whistler, here with its head turned
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2014]

Dorsal view of a sub-adult male Rufous Whistler (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Balingup, WA, May 2016]

Frontal view of an immature Rufous Whistler calling
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, March 2013]

Frontal view of an immature Rufous Whistler with its prey
[Pilliga West SCA, NSW, December 2015]

Near-frontal view of an immature Rufous Whistler looking for prey
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2013]

Near-lateral view of an immature Rufous Whistler (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Near-lateral view of an immature male Rufous Whistler with its head turned; note how the bird is growing the first rufous feathers of its adult plumage
[Tiger Bay wetlands, Warren, NSW, April 2017]

Lateral view of an immature Rufous Whistler
[December 2011]

Male Rufous Whistler feeding a dependent young (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, March 2017]

Frontal view of a fledgling Rufous Whistler with its prominent orange gape wide open (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2016]

Near-frontal view of a fledgling Rufous Whistler; note the stubby tail and yellow gape (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2014]

Close-up near-frontal portrait of a fledgling Rufous Whistler (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2014]

Dorsal view of a fledgling Rufous Whistler (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2016]

Race "falcata"

ADULT

MALE

Partly obscured lateral view of a male Rufous Whistler
[Umbrawarra Gorge NP, NT, August 2014]

FEMALE

Near-frontal view of a female Rufous Whistler
[Umbrawarra Gorge NP, NT, August 2014]

Lateral view of a female Rufous Whistler
[Umbrawarra Gorge NP, NT, August 2014]

Near-dorsal view of a female Rufous Whistler
[Umbrawarra Gorge NP, NT, August 2014]

Race "maudeae"

ADULT

MALE

Frontal view of a male Rufous Whistler (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Lake Nuga Nuga, QLD, April 2013]

FEMALE

Distant frontal view of a female Rufous Whistler (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[The Granites Gold Mine, inland NT, June 2015]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Feb Eggs: 2 - 4 Incubation period: 14 - 15 days Fledging age: ca. 14 days

Given the right conditions, Rufous Whistlers can breed any time of the year.

Nest

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

Type: Bowl Material: Twigs with finer lining Height above ground: 1 - 8 m

Female Rufous Whistler carrying nesting material
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, July 2011]

Female Rufous Whistler on its semi-transparent nest
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, December 2007]

Rufous Whistlers can choose to nest very close to humans, within reaching distance.

Nest with three chicks in a tree on a neighbour's patio
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2011]

Here one can see the female feeding one of the chicks
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2011]

Male Rufous Whistler bringing an insect to feed to its chicks
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2011]

Here a female Rufous Whistler bringing a meal for its chicks
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2011]

Eggs

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

Size: 23 x 17 mm Colour: Stone-coloured, with brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Nomadic/migratory Elementary unit: Pair

Male Rufous Whistlers compete against each other for territory and the favour of females by means of an elaborate display contest. They puff themselves up to impress their opponents, bob their bodies and chase each other through the bush.

Male Rufous Whistler trying to impress a competing male
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, September 2008]

Typical hunting behaviour of a Rufous Whistler, in this case a sub-adult male - looking around for prey
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2014]

Immature Rufous Whistler foraging on our lawn, something we have only seen once so far
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

At the height of the breeding season male Rufous Whistlers are capable of astounding feats of singing. As an example, here a single, unabridged sound track of more than 2:30 minutes.

rufwhis_20141023_4.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Various (male) © MD

Food, Diet

Like all other members of the Pachycephala family known to us, Rufous Whistlers forage through trees for insects.

Female Rufous Whistler with its catch; although sitting on the ground, the bird took the insect from a low-hanging branch of a bush
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2013]

Call(s)/Song

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

rufwhis_20140919.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Contact call (male) © MD
rufwhis_20141016.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Contact calls (males Q&A) © MD
rufwhis_20141023_3.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Pair Q&A © MD
rufwhis_20140127.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Q&A © MD
rufwhis_20140110.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Territorial call (male) © MD
rufwhis_20140911.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Fighting (in-flight) © MD
rufwhis_20141023.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Various (male) © MD
rufwhis_20141023_9.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Various (male) © MD
rufwhis_20140331_3.mp3 rufiventris
(NW NSW)
Various (sub-adult male) © MD
Click here for more recordings

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.