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23

Apostlebird

(Struthidea cinerea)
Alternate name(s): "Lousy Jack", "Family-bird", "Grey Jumper", "12 Apostles", "Happy Family*", "CWA Bird"
Size: 29-33 cm
Weight: 110-160 g
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Apostlebird at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "cinerea"

ADULT

Portrait of an adult Apostlebird
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, May 2006]

Profile of an Apostlebird
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, May 2006]

Frontal view of an Apostlebird sentry
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2013]

Frontal view from underneath of an Apostlebird "sentry" approaching the intruder
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Lateral view of an Apostlebird coming in for a drink and a bath; while they are using the waterhole (usually as a group), nobody else will normally be tolerated around; note the brown colour of the wing feathers
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2007]

Apostlebird on the ground
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, December 2005]

Lateral view of an Apostlebird on the ground (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Here an example of why Apostlebirds are also called "Familybirds"
[Eulah Creek, NSW]

Distant lateral view of an Apostlebird in flight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2015]

Birds found far inland

Apostlebirds found far inland can look more reddish-brown, in accordance with the soil, than closer to the Great Dividing Range (photo courtesy of G. Schoorl)
[Kidman Highway between Cobar and Bourke, NSW, February 2017]

Apostlebirds found far inland can look more reddish-brown, in accordance with the soil, than closer to the Great Dividing Range (photo courtesy of G. Schoorl)
[Kidman Highway between Cobar and Bourke, NSW, February 2017]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Jan Eggs: 3 - 4 Incubation period: 18 days Fledging age: 14 - 21 days

There can be communal breeding, with more than one female laying eggs into the same nest. All family members help care for the chicks. Apostlebirds may try to take over other species' mud nests, especially Magpie-larks'.

Ok, mate, off you go... (male Apostlebird dismounting)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Nest

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

Type: Bowl Material: Mud Height above ground: 2 - 20 m

D. Johnston reports of Apostlebirds using wet cow dung in inland Australia in times of drought, when there is no mud to be found.

Additional information

mud nests are sought after by several bird species. We have compiled some more information on the (re-)use of mud nests.

Apostlebirds can often be found nesting under or near nests of other species; on a separate page we have collected some more information about clustered nesting.

Female Apostlebird approaching the nest with a clutch of chicks in it, while the rest of the family clan remained in a nearby tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2008]

When the "all clear" was given, some tender loving care was given to the Apostlebird chicks...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2008]

... before the female Apostlebird sat down again
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2008]

Apostlebird nest in one of the eucalypt trees on our property
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

Eggs

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

Size: 30 x 22 mm Colour: Creamy, with brown speckles at the thick end Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Family clan

It is astonishing that Apostlebirds are not found all over Australia, because wherever they show up they are so dominant that others steer clear of them. Amongst others, they hustled our Bantam chickens. Amongst each other Apostlebirds are very sociable, e.g. preening each other. While foraging on the ground, groups of Apostlebirds always have a sentry, often sitting in an elevated spot, warning the others if necessary. Below an example of the sentry issuing a warning and the group's response to that.

Family clan of Apostlebirds going about its business of having a drink and taking a bath; the bird in the foreground is the sentry; at some point it issued a warning call - the response can be seen in the next photo below
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2011]

Here the sentry is joined by six others on the lookout, all securing the perimeter by facing outwards; clearly the call was a warning only, not an alarm, because the group settled down again shortly afterwards
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2011]

Here a sentry protecting a clan of foraging Apostlebirds
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2015]

Apostlebirds are often seen by us together with Grey-crowned Babblers or with White-winged Choughs (but not both at the same time).

Clan of Apostlebirds foraging together with a clan of White-winged Choughs
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2012]

D. Johnston reports of Apostlebirds using wet cow dung in inland Australia in times of drought, when there is no mud to be found.

Additional information

We have observed interactions between the various species of mud-nesting birds in Australia. A short page describing some of our observations can be found HERE.

Food, Diet

Apostlebirds have been seen by us to take both seeds and small insects, which they usually find on the ground.

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.

apostle_20140107.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Contact calls © MD
apostle_20140929.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Warning calls (Pied Curraw.) © MD
apostle_20140423_5.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Approaching water © MD
apostle_20140423_7.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Quarreling near water © MD
apostle_20140423.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Group chatter © MD
apostle_20141204.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Curious/ investigating © MD
apostle_20140925.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
? © MD
Click here for more recordings

We have also recorded the wing beat of an Apostlebird.

apostle_20140423_4.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Departure © MD
apostle_20140423_8.mp3 cinerea
(NW NSW)
Departure from water (wet) © 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.

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