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22

Pied Butcherbird

(Cracticus nigrogularis)
Alternate name(s): "Black-throated Butcher-bird", "Black-throated Crow-shrike", "Organbird", "Break-o'day Boy"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "picatus: "koodjieko" (WA)

Size: 33-36 cm
Weight: 100-150 g

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 Pied Butcherbird at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "nigrogularis"

ADULT

Sex unknown

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

Close-up frontal view of a Pied Butcherbird looking sideways (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Moggill Wetlands, Moggill, QLD, August 2022]

Near-frontal portrait of a Pied Butcherbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2019]

Near-frontal/ventral view of a Pied Butcherbird adorning a flagpost
[Near Narrabri, NSW, April 2006]

Near-lateral portrait of a Pied Butcherbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2019]

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

Near-lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2019]

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

Close-up lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Moggill Wetlands, Moggill, QLD, August 2022]

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

Close-up lateral portrait of a Pied Butcherbird
[Moree, NSW, 2015]

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

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

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

Near-dorsal/ventral view of a Pied Butcherbird in flight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2021]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of an immature Pied Butcherbird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2008]

Near-frontal view of an immature Pied Butcherbird cooling by angling its wings
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2022]

The same immature Pied Butcherbird as above after turning around...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2008]

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]

Near-dorsal/ventral view of a fledgling Pied Butcherbird
[Pilliga Wetlands Walk, NSW, November 2019]

Race "picatus"

ADULT

Sex unknown

Frontal view of a Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, April 2018]

Frontal view of a Pied Butcherbird issuing its call; this is one of the birds whose calls were recorded on 9 April 2018
(photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, April 2018]

Lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, April 2018]

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

Near-dorsal view of a Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, April 2018]

PAIR

Pair of Pied Butcherbirds; this is the pair whose calls were recorded on 9 April 2018 (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, April 2018]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of an immature Pied Butcherbird looking sideways (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Katherine, NT, July 2020]

Near-frontal view of an immature Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Keep River NP, NT, November 2018]

Near-lateral view of an immature Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Keep River NP, NT, November 2018]

Near-lateral/ventral view of an immature Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Uluru, NT, March 2015]

Lateral view of an immature Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Escarpment Walk, Victoria River, NT, March 2021]

Lateral/ventral view of an immature Pied Butcherbird upsetting the local population of Yellow-throated Miners
(photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boolardy Station, Murchison, WA, August 2016]

Dorsal view of an immature Pied Butcherbird (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Merredin, WA, February 2015]

Lateral view of a Pied Butcherbird with a preening juvenile (photo courtesy of D. Dyer)
[Cervantes, WA, February 2022]

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", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

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

Pied Butcherbird at its nest with two chicks - and the photographer got their full attention (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Priors Pocket Road, Moggill, QLD, November 2021]

Two Pied Butcherbird chicks in their nest (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Priors Pocket Road, Moggill, QLD, November 2021]

Two Pied Butcherbird chicks in their nest (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Priors Pocket Road, Moggill, QLD, November 2021]

Pied Butcherbird on its nest (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Umbrawarra Gorge NP, NT, September 2021]

Closer look at the same Pied Butcherbird nest as shown above (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Umbrawarra Gorge NP, NT, September 2021]

Pied Butcherbird nest, well hidden in mistletoe in a eucalypt host tree; the rosy skin of an upraised young chick's head can be seen
[Near Narrabri, NSW, October 2014]

Pied Butcherbird leaving its nest
[Near Narrabri, NSW, October 2014]

Here one can see that there are three well-developed chicks in the Pied Butcherbird nest; these are the Pied Butcherbird chicks whose begging calls were recorded on 7 November 2014
[Near Narrabri, NSW, November 2014]

Pied Butcherbird making a delivery
[Near Narrabri, NSW, November 2014]

Pied Butcherbird nest on a low fork
[Pilliga Wetlands Walk, NSW, November 2019]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = 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/family

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]

Two Pied Butcherbirds, adult on the left, immature on the right, hovering above their prey in a stiff breeze
[Burren Junction Bore Bath, NSW, March 2018]

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.

Two parties of Pied Butcherbirds meeting at the boundary of their respective territories to stake their claims
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2022]

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]

Pied Butcherbirds are one of the bird species that allow ants to crawl over them. According to W. Riddell, experts are unsure of the function but theories include that the chemical secretions of ants may control parasites within the feathers, or help promote moulting of feathers, as a form of feather maintenance and also as a means of attracting food.

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 a spider 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 with the decapitated body of what looks like a Painted Button-quail, probably the abandoned kill of a larger predator, such as a cat or a goshawk (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Ashmore, Gold Coast, QLD, June 2018]

Pied Butcherbird with the decapitated body of what looks like a Painted Button-quail; it needed to wedge the bird into a fork to be able to pluck it (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Ashmore, Gold Coast, QLD, June 2018]

Pied Butcherbird devouring a cicada (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Noosa, QLD, January 2019]

Pied Butcherbird with its prey, a spider
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2019]

Pied Butcherbird feeding on termites (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Goorrandalng Campground, Keep River NP, NT, September 2020]

Closer look at the Pied Butcherbird's "dinner plate" (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Goorrandalng Campground, Keep River NP, NT, September 2020]

Pied Butcherbird with its prey
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Immature Pied Butcherbird with its prey
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2022]

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)

This immature Pied Butcherbird was observed plucking apart the carcass of a Magpie-lark (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Merredin, WA, February 2015]

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.

pibutch_art_20131114.m4a nigrogularis
(SE QLD)
Contact calls © ART
pibutch_20210226.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Contact calls © MD
pibutch_20200802_2.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Contact calls (Q&A) © MD
pibutch_20200802.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (Q&A) © MD
pibutch_20180914.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (Q&A) © MD
pibutch_20180922.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (Q&A) © MD
pibutch_20220827.mp3 nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls
(pair Q&A)
© MD
pibutch_20210326.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Pair Q&A © MD
pibutch_20160726.mp3 nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Pair Q&A © MD
pibutch_20180315.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Pair Q&A © MD
pibutch_ih_20141002.mp3 nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (break of dawn, distant) © IH
pibutch_20220404.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Alarm calls (swooping on Brown Goshawk) © MD
pibutch_20140120_5.mp3 nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Annoyed calls © MD
pibutch_20140120_6.mp3 nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Annoyed call (juvenile fending off Noisy Miner) © MD
pibutch_art_20131127.m4a nigrogularis
(SE QLD)
Defending food source © ART
pibutch_20201227.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Juvenile practising, incl. mimicry (Laughing Kookaburra) © MD
pibutch_20201227_2.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Begging calls (juvenile) + being fed © MD
pibutch_20201227_3.m4a nigrogularis
(NW NSW)
Begging calls (juvenile) © MD
pibutch_art_20131214.m4a nigrogularis
(SE QLD)
Various © ART
pibutch_me_20200412.m4a nigrogularis
(SE QLD)
? (from high perch) © ME
 
pibutch_pb_20180409_4.m4a picatus
(NE WA)
Contact call © PB
pibutch_pb_20181121_2.m4a picatus
(Inland NT)
Contact calls © PB
pibutch_pb_20181119.m4a picatus
(Inland NT)
Contact call (Q&A) © PB
pibutch_pb_20181120.m4a picatus
(Inland NT)
Territorial call © PB
pibutch_pb_20200605.m4a picatus
(Top End, NT)
Territorial calls © PB
pibutch_pb_20180409.m4a picatus
(NE WA)
Territorial calls (pair Q&A) © PB
pibutch_pb_20180409_1.m4a picatus
(NE WA)
Territorial calls (pair Q&A) © PB
pibutch_pb_20181121.m4a picatus
(Inland NT)
Territorial calls
(break of dawn)
© PB
pibutch_pb_20180812.m4a picatus
(Top End, NT)
? © PB
Click here for more recordings

More Pied Butcherbird sound recordings are available at xeno-canto.org .

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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