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23

White-winged Chough

(Corcorax melanorhamphos)
Alternate name(s): "Jackdaw*", "Black Magpie*", "Black Jay", "Muttonbird*"; Misnomer: "Apostlebird*"
Aboriginal name(s): "wuyuu" [gamilaraay, yuwaalaraay]

Size: 43-47 cm
Weight: 290-450 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 Chough at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "melanorhamphos"

ADULT

Lateral view of an adult White-winged Chough
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2017]

Scruffy-looking White-winged Chough, with worn feathers that look wiry from wear and tear
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2013]

Near-dorsal view of a White-winged Chough
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2011]

Near-dorsal view of a White-winged Chough with unusually prominent white bars visible on the folded wings (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[St. Albans, NSW, March 2016]

Dorsal view of a White-winged Chough; note the grey-blueish tint of the plumage and the bird's prominent red eye
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2012]

Dorsal view of a White-winged Chough in a relaxed state; its iris is more brownish (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

White-winged Chough struggling to gain balance on a thin branch, thereby partially exposing its white wing feathers
[Near Narrabri, NSW, February 2008]

White-winged Choughs on a lawn; note the bright red eyes - in the shade the pupils are wide-open, while on photos below the irises are much more prominent
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2006]

This White-winged Chough, while scratching itself, exhibits a greenish-grey sheen of the plumage on its back
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2012]

Here a clear view of the striking red eyes of a White-winged Chough
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2008]

This White-winged Chough sentry was excited, wagging its tail and bobbing its head while calling out to warn the rest of the clan
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2015]

While scratching, obviously this White-winged Chough has its eyes closed
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2008]

The photos above demonstrate that when the wings are folded, the birds appear to be entirely black. Only when the wings are spread or fanned the white wing patches become visible.

Clear view of a White-winged Chough fanning its wings and thereby exposing the white wing feathers, which are visible on the upper side of the wings
[Eulah Creek, NSW]

This dorsal view of a White-winged Chough fanning its wings and tail feathers in a social display demonstrates clearly that the white patches are also visible from the underside of the wings
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2009]

Also in flight a White-winged Chough's white patch is visible from below and above (click on image for a view from above)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2009]

White-winged Chough right out of the bathtub...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2013]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Lateral view of an immature White-winged Chough
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2011]

Immature White-winged Chough with drooping wings on a 43 C hot day
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2013]

Juvenile White-winged Chough begging for (correction: demanding!) food
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

Close-up frontal view of a fledgling White-winged Chough (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)

Fledgling White-winged Chough being fed (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Jan Eggs: 3 - 5 Incubation period: 19 days Fledging age: 28 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.

Nest

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

Type: Bowl Material: Mud Height above ground: 5 - 15 m

Additional information

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

White-winged Choughs 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.

Depending on the available material, the colour of mudnests such as those of White-winged Choughs can vary - here a reddish one...
[August 2011]

... while this White-winged Chough nest is grey
[Maules Creek, NSW, September 2011]

Here an elegant White-winged Chough bowl that is recycled and upgraded from previous years
[Maules Creek, NSW, September 2011]

White-winged Chough returning to its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

A brief look inside...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

...then go and sit
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

This White-winged Chough nest and its occupant were found by R. Plumtree
[Old Coach Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, October 2014]

Near-fledging age White-winged Chough chicks waiting to be fed (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[St. Albans, NSW, March 2016]

White-winged Chough feeding its chicks (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[St. Albans, NSW, March 2016]

Obviously, one mouthful is not enough for two hungry White-winged Chough chicks (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[St. Albans, NSW, March 2016]

Near-lateral view of a near-fledging age White-winged Chough chick in its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2014]

Lateral view of a near-fledging age White-winged Chough chick in its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2014]

One of the White-winged Chough parents keeping a watchful eye on the photographer
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2014]

White-winged Chough with a good load of mud and casuarina leaves for reinforcement
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, October 2015]

We have found White-winged Choughs' nests re-used by other species, e.g. Common Bronzewings and White-browed Babblers.

Eggs

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

Size: 40 x 31 mm Colour: Creamy, sparsely speckled with brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Family clan

There is a separate page describing a family clan of White-winged Choughs feeding a nesting α-female.

So far we have not seen White-winged Choughs out in open terrain for extended periods of time. They prefer to stay under the foliage of trees or on the fringes of bushland. Wherever possible they stay in the shade of trees or bushes.

Example of a family of White-winged Choughs sitting under a small tree in a compact configuration; the birds stayed like that for at least 15 minutes
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2016]

When we observed a family clan of White-winged Chougsh away from the busy parts of the Warrumbungle NP it was clear that they had posted two sentries to protect the group on the ground: One advance guard and a rear guard, who were in constant contact with those on the ground. When necessary, the sentries gave a warning, but the group only reacted when the leader of the pack on the ground acknowledged this.

Near camping and picnic facilities, where they are used to the presence of humans, the sentries take part in the activities of the flock on the ground.

In March 2011 we have observed 4 (probably related) family clans foraging close to each other in our garden, with a total of about 30 members.

Dorsal view of a sentry watching over a clan of about 20 White-winged Choughs

White-winged Choughs can often be seen together with Apostlebirds

This adult White-winged Chough (front) is clearly excited, after just feeding the immature bird behind it

Similar to many parrots and cockatoos and also Australian Magpies immature White-winged Choughs display playful behaviour, as can be seen in the photo below.

Immature White-winged Chough playing with a dead branch
[Eulah Creek, NSW, 2006]

White-winged Choughs were observed by us hustling a Lace Monitor, a 1.2-m long goanna. However, when swooped by two Australian Magpies, we have seen a clan of seven White-winged Choughs form a defensive ring, everybody facing outwards and ducking for cover. Even family clans of up to 20 birds will duck for cover when a single Australian Magpie hustles them.

For reasons unknown to us here a whole clan of White-winged Choughs ducked low, hugging the ground, while there was no threat to them; note how the whole group stays in a shady area
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2012]

White-winged Choughs are often seen by us together with Apostlebirds.

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

Food, Diet

White-winged Choughs forage on the ground for insects, larvae, worms and other small animals. R. Druce reports having observed a White-winged Chough taking nestlings of Superb Fairy-wrens.

White-winged Chough taking a beetle
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2012]

This White-winged Chough has something in its bill that might be a small stone or a lerp
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2012]

Immature White-winged Chough with its prey; this bird was observed by us helping to feed a juvenile
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

White-winged Chough drinking at the shallow, muddy bank of a farm dam (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2013]

White-winged Chough family clan drinking from a water bowl
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2008]

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.

wchough_20140311.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Warning calls (human) © MD
wchough_20140109.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Warning calls © MD
wchough_20140109_2.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Warning calls © MD
wchough_20140515.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Warning calls © MD
wchough_20140109_3.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Alarm call (Aust. Magpie) © MD
wchough_20140404.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Alarm call (cat) © MD
wchough_20151021.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Alarm (vehicle) © MD
wchough_20140515_2.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Group chatter (foraging) © MD
wchough_20140203.mp3 melanorhamphos
(NW NSW)
Group chatter © 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.