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22

Grey Butcherbird

(Cracticus torquatus)
Alternate name(s): "Collared Butcherbird", "Collared Crow-shrike", "Derwent Jackass", "Tasmanian Jackass", "Whistling Jackass", "Silver-backed (Grey) Butcherbird" (races "argenteus" and "colletti"), "White-winged Butcherbird", "Durbaner"
Aboriginal name(s): "koolardi"; Race "leucopterus": "wadowadong", "wardawawt", "yodjidi" (WA)

Size: 26-30 cm
Weight: 100 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 Grey Butcherbird at Wikipedia .

Click here for classification information

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "torquatus"

ADULT

MALE

Close-up frontal view of a male(?) Grey Butcherbird
[Moree, NSW, September 2015]

Close-up frontal portrait of a young male(?) Grey Butcherbird issuing its call; this is the bird whose calls were recorded on 27 March 2015
[Sawtell, NSW, March 2015]

Near-frontal view of a pair of Grey Butcherbirds, with the male in front and the female at the back (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2014]

Near-frontal view of a male Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2013]

Lateral view of a male Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2013]

Lateral view of a male Grey Butcherbird looking for food
[Near Dorrigo NP, NSW, August 2009]

FEMALE

Close-up near-frontal view of a female Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, July 2013]

Close-up lateral view of a female Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, July 2013]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal view of a juvenile Grey Butcherbird begging for food (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, January 2015]

Near-lateral view of a juvenile Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2014]

Race "leucopterus"

ADULT

MALE

Frontal view of a male Grey Butcherbird
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, April 2012]

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

Dorsal view of an adult (male?) Grey Butcherbird
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2011]

FEMALE

FEMALE

This frontal view of a female Grey Butcherbird shows that this species has almost frontal vision, similar to raptors'
[October 2011]

Frontal view of a female Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW]

Near-frontal view of a female Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW]

Near-frontal view of a female Grey Butcherbird; note the disproportionally tiny legs and feet, compared to the size of the bird's body
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2008]

Close-up lateral view of a female Grey Butcherbird
[October 2011]

Female Grey Butcherbird visiting one of our water bowls - a quick dip in...
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

out again ...
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

... some preening - clean!
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of an immature Grey Butcherbird hunting off a perch in a tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2011]

Frontal view of an immature Grey Butcherbird
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Lateral view of an immature Grey Butcherbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2011]

Lateral view of an immature Grey Butcherbird (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Leard State Forest, near Maules Creek, NSW, October 2012]

Dorsal view of an immature Grey Butcherbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2011]

Immature Grey Butcherbird cooling down in the shade on a hot summer's day
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Grey Butcherbird flying a hairpin bend
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Near-frontal view of a juvenile Grey Butcherbird (note how its tail feathers have not yet grown to their full length)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

Juvenile Grey Butcherbird practising its warble
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

Parent Grey Butcherbird (below) with a juvenile begging for food; this is one of the juveniles whose begging calls were recorded on 9 November 2014
[Gwydir Wetlands, near Moree, NSW, November 2014]

Frontal view of a juvenile Grey Butcherbird; this is one of the juveniles whose begging calls were recorded on 9 November 2014
[Gwydir Wetlands, near Moree, NSW, November 2014]

Lateral view of a juvenile Grey Butcherbird; this is one of the juveniles whose begging calls were recorded on 9 November 2014
[Gwydir Wetlands, near Moree, NSW, November 2014]

Race "argenteus"

Together with race "colletti", race "argenteus" is also known as the "Silver-backed Butcherbird".

ADULT

MALE

Near-dorsal view of a male Grey Butcherbird "argenteus", with a clear view of its silvery-grey back (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[SW of Derby, WA, July 2010]

Race "colletti"

Together with race "argenteus", race "colletti" is also known as the "Silver-backed Butcherbird".

Lateral view of a male Grey Butcherbird "colletti" on a power line (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Knuckey Lagoons, Darwin, NT, July 2012]

Lateral view of a male Grey Butcherbird "colletti" on a power line (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Knuckey Lagoons, Darwin, NT, July 2012]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Dec Eggs: 3 - 5 Incubation period: 24 - 26 days Fledging age: 28 - 30 days

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female Dependent care: Female & male

Additional information

A. Morris reports that some bird species, such as e.g. Crested Pigeons, Tawny Frogmouths and Striped Honeyeaters, like to take advantage of the protection offered by nesting under a Grey Butcherbird nest. There is now a separate page about various bird species nesting under the umbrella of a stronger, protective species.

Nest

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

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, with grass and/or other soft lining Height above ground: 3 - 10 m

Grey Butcherbird nests, often placed in a vertical fork, can look untidy on the outside, but are usually neatly finished and lined.

Grey Butcherbird nest in a vertical fork
[Gwydir Wetlands, near Moree, NSW, November 2014]

Grey Butcherbird nest in a horizontal fork
[Gwydir Wetlands, near Moree, NSW, November 2014]

Eggs

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

Size: 31 x 23 mm Colour: Mid-brown, with dark-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Pair/family clan

Where we lived until late 2006, on the edge of Jack's Creek State Forest, Grey Butcherbirds did not often come out into the open farmland. Rather, they preferred to stay in wooded areas, marking their territories from perches on tall trees, from where their calls carry over long distances.

20 km East of Narrabri, they stay in the bush during summer, but come close to the house in wintertime to hunt, mostly from fenceposts and nearby trees.

Lateral view of an adult female Grey Butcherbird wedging its meal (in this case minced meat) in a fork to then tear it apart (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2013]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

This immature Grey Butcherbird was seen with a feather in its bill; it is unclear what the bird wanted to do with the feather
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2012]

Food, Diet

Like all members of the Cracticus family, Grey 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.

Grey Butcherbird with a beetle that it has just caught; Willie Wagtails don't like having butcherbirds around, knowing that, given a chance, the butcherbird would also take their chicks
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2012]

This Grey Butcherbird has caught a Praying Mantis
[Near Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, June 2015]

This female Grey Butcherbird was seen pulling something out of a cavity in the branch it is sitting on
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2011]

It is not easy to determine what this Grey Butcherbird was plucking apart
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2011]

Grey Butcherbird feeding its offspring scavenged minced meat (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2014]

Lateral view of a male Grey Butcherbird taking water from a bowl (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2014]

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.

grbutch_20150327.mp3 torquatus
(NE NSW)
Territorial calls(?) & departure © MD
grbutch_art_20150111.mp3 torquatus
(SE QLD)
Idle chatter © ART
grbutch_art_20140914.mp3 torquatus
(SE QLD)
? © ART
 
grbutch_20140109.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Contact call © MD
grbutch_20150422.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Territorial call © MD
grbutch_20140924.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
(Abbreviated) territorial call © MD
grbutch_20160225_2.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Q&A (territorial calls) © MD
grbutch_20160225.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Q&A (territorial calls) © MD
grbutch_20160225_3.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Q + Q&A (territorial calls) © MD
grbutch_20160225_4.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Q + Q&A (territorial calls) © MD
grbutch_20141109.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Begging calls (juveniles) © MD
grbutch_20150227_2.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Immature practicing © MD
grbutch_20150227.mp3 torquatus/ leucopterus
(NW NSW)
Immature practicing © MD

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.

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