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22

White-winged Triller

(Lalage tricolor [sueurii])
Alternate name(s): "White-shouldered Caterpillar-eater", "Peewee-lark"
Aboriginal name(s): "koomolkolong" (WA)

Size: 16-19 cm
Weight: 20-32 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 White-winged Triller at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

ADULT

MALE

BREEDING

Frontal portrait of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Frontal portrait of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage; a few remaining grey-brown feathers are still visible on the crown
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Frontal view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2008]

Frontal view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage looking sideways (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Priors Pocket Road, Moggill, QLD, October 2021]

Near-frontal view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage, hunting for insects
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Near-frontal/ventral view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage marking its territory
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2016]

Near-lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Near-lateral/ventral view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2016]

Lateral view of a White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage in grassland (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, November 2013]

Near-dorsal view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage looking sideways (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Priors Pocket Road, Moggill, QLD, October 2021]

Dorsal view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2008]

Distant view of a male White-winged Triller in breeding plumage in flight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2019]

NON-BREEDING

Frontal view of a male White-winged Triller in transitional plumage; the leading edges of the wings are already black, but the head has not moulted yet
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Frontal view of a male White-winged Triller in transitional plumage; nothing distinguishes it from full breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Near-lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in transitional plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Lateral view of a male White-winged Triller moulting into breeding plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Frontal view of a male White-winged Triller in transitory (mostly non-breeding) plumage

Near-frontal view of a male White-winged Triller in non-breeding plumage looking sideways (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Priors Pocket Road, Moggill, QLD, October 2021]

Lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in non-breeding plumage
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2007]

Lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in transitory (mostly non-breeding) plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2017]

Near-dorsal view of a male White-winged Triller in transitory (mostly non-breeding) plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2017]

Dorsal view of a male White-winged Triller in transitory (mostly non-breeding) plumage
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2017]

Near-dorsal view of a male White-winged Triller in non-breeding plumage (photo P. Brown)
[Bird Billabong Road, off Arnhem Highway, NT, July 2018]

Lateral view of a male White-winged Triller in non-breeding plumage taking off (photo P. Brown)
[Bird Billabong Road, off Arnhem Highway, NT, July 2018]

FEMALE

Frontal portrait of a female White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Frontal view of a female White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Frontal/ventral view of a female White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2018]

Near-frontal view of a female White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Near-lateral portrait of a female White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Lateral portrait of a female White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Lateral view of a female White-winged Triller
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2019]

Close-up lateral view of a female White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Lateral view of a female White-winged Triller carrying food for its chick; note the barring on flank and shoulder
(photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, January 2018]

Lateral view of a female White-winged Triller in an Acacia salicina tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Note the strong barring on the flanks of this female White-winged Triller
[Near Bugilbone, NSW, November 2017]

Near-dorsal view of a female White-winged Triller (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lake Samsonvale, QLD, December 2019]

Dorsal view of a female White-winged Triller
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2019]

Pair of White-winged Trillers in a paddock, foraging on the ground; the male is seen at the lower left
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, October 2006]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of an immature male White-winged Triller; note the dark cap and the absence of a visible supercilium
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Lateral view of an immature male White-winged Triller (photo taken through a fence)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Lateral view of an immature male White-winged Triller; note the dark cap and the absence of a visible supercilium
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Ventral view of an immature male White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2018]

Near-frontal view of an immature female White-winged Triller (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Casuarina Coastal Reserve, Darwin, NT, May 2020]

Near-frontal view of a preening immature female White-winged Triller (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, May 2020]

Near-frontal view of an immature female White-winged Triller (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Casuarina Coastal Reserve, Darwin, NT, May 2020]

Lateral view of an immature female White-winged Triller (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, May 2020]

Lateral view of an immature female White-winged Triller feeding on the ground (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, May 2020]

Frontal view of a juvenile White-winged Triller
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2007]

Close-up frontal/ventral view of a juvenile White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Near-frontal view of a juvenile White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2013]

Near-frontal view of a juvenile White-winged Triller (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Buffalo Creek, Darwin, NT, September 2018]

Near-lateral view of a juvenile White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2007]

Near-dorsal view of a juvenile White-winged Triller
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2007]

Two juvenile White-winged Trillers waiting to be fed (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Merriwindi SCA, near Kenebri, NSW, January 2021]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Feb Eggs: 2 - 3 Incubation period: 14 days Fledging age: 13 - 15 days

The breeding season of White-winged Trillers depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical North they may breed at the end of the wet season. But in inland Australia, given the right conditions, White-winged Trillers can breed any time of the year.

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

We had noticed in earlier breeding seasons that, at some point, all activity by male White-winged Trillers appeared to cease and the birds had left the area where they had started to build nests and breed. In the 2021/22 season we noticed again the departure of all male White-winged Trillers round about the middle of November. But on 22 November, by accident, a female was found with prey in its bill, issuing warning calls. This bird was then found to be bringing food to its nestling chicks. We had previously observed that males participate in the incubation process (see photo/s below). Bell (1965 Communal Nesting by White-winged Triller. Emu 65, 133-138) notes that male White-winged Trillers are attentive in caring for their young. However, in line with our own observations, Immelmann (1966 Notes on the Breeding Biology of the White-winged Triller Lalage seuurii tricolor Swainson in North-western Australia. Emu 66, 1-15) notes that males may depart ca. 8 days after the chicks hatch, possibly to start claiming a new territory for breeding a second time, while the females stay behind to feed the nestlings and to feed them for about 7 more days after fledging.

Nest

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

Type: Basket Material: Grass, rootlets, webs Height above ground: 2 - 10 m

White-winged Triller nests found by us are different compared to what is described in field guides in several respects: They are not always placed on a fork, they are not always as shallow as reported in field guides, and they can be well-hidden in dense foliage, rather than in the open on a fork of a dead branch.

Frontal/ventral view of a female White-winged Triller bringing food for its two chicks, in this case a spider - following this bird we found its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

Overview of the location of a White-winged Triller nest in a young ironbark eucalypt
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

White-winged Triller nest the day after the last chick fledged
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

White-winged Triller chick in its nest, the day before fledging
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

White-winged Triller chick resting on the edge of its nest, the day before fledging
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

Two White-winged Triller chicks in their nest, begging to be fed
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

Female White-winged Triller feeding one of its two chicks
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

White-winged Triller hatchling in its nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, January 2018]

Male White-winged Triller on its nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, January 2018]

Female White-winged Triller on its nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, January 2018]

Female White-winged Triller working on its nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, Ensay, East Gippsland, VIC, November 2019]

Male White-winged Triller on its nest in an Acacia salicina; the female is ready to take over incubating duties
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2021]

View from below of a White-winged Triller nest in a rough-barked Acacia salicina tree; this nest was constructed under the "umbrella" of a Magpie-lark nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2016]

Female White-winged Triller working on its well-hidden nest, with the male in attendance
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2016]

Male White-winged Triller helping with the construction of the nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2016]

Male White-winged Triller looking for (left) and "harvesting" (right) a spider's web for use in binding its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

Eggs

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

Size: 21 x 15 mm Colour: Light-brown, with many large dark-brown patches Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Communal/territorial Mobility: N sedentary, S migratory Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Male White-winged Trillers use vantage points to issue their calls so as to be heard from afar. Obviously, they cannot do this all day long, but need to feed in the meantime. While feeding they also intersperse periods of singing, see photos below.

White-winged Trillers are semi-colonial breeders. Several pairs can nest close to each other, but they have separate territories for foraging. However, we have also observed both males and females of different pairs forage together in a small area during the breeding season.

White-winged Triller singing from a high vantage point; this is a perch where the bird sits only to be heard
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Here the same White-winged Triller as above is foraging for insects in a black pine tree, but also puts in some more effort into attracting a female
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Male White-winged Triller spreading its wings while taking a shower
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2014]

Male White-winged Triller having a shower under a garden sprinkler, raising its mantle and rump feathers
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2014]

Male White-winged Triller raising its mantle and rump feathers
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2014]

Food, Diet

White-winged Trillers usually hunt for insects that they will take from foliage or from the ground.

Female White-winged Triller with a grasshopper for breakfast (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lake Samsonvale, QLD, December 2019]

Female White-winged Triller with its prey, a larva
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2015]

Female White-winged Triller with its prey, a grasshopper
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2018]

Male White-winged Triller feeding on nectar (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Near Berriwillock, VIC, October 2019]

Female White-winged Triller feeding on nectar (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Near Berriwillock, VIC, October 2019]

White-winged Triller taking nectar from a flower... (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Leanyer, Darwin, NT, July 2018]

... and feeling quite possessive about it (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Leanyer, Darwin, NT, July 2018]

Female White-winged Triller looking for prey in a flowering Grevillea robusta
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2018]

This male White-winged Triller appears to be taking nectar from a flowering Grevillea robusta, rather than insects visiting the flowers
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2018]

Two White-winged Trillers with their caps covered in pollen; this species is not known to be nectarivore, so they may have been hunting for insects in flowers when picking up the pollen (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Oolloo Road, Daly River region, NT, August 2021]

Male White-winged Triller drinking by taking droplets from grass
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 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.

wwtrill_20161026_2.m4a (NW NSW) Territorial call (male) © MD
wwtrill_pb_20181117.m4a (Inland NT) Territorial call (male) © PB
wwtrill_20161026_4.m4a (NW NSW) Territorial calls (male) © MD
wwtrill_20161026_3.m4a (NW NSW) Territorial calls (male) © MD
wwtrill_20161026.mp3 (NW NSW) Territorial calls (male)
(long sequence)
© MD
wwtrill_20211122.m4a (NW NSW) Female warning nestlings © MD
wwtrill_20211122_5.m4a (NW NSW) Begging call (nestling) © MD
wwtrill_20211122_3.m4a (NW NSW) 2 nestlings begging & being fed © MD
wwtrill_20211122_2.m4a (NW NSW) ? (nestling) © MD

More White-winged Triller 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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