Pied Butcherbird Graham Winterflood/Flickr

Pied Butcherbird

Black and white, with the pattern varying across its range. The back of its neck, upper tail and shoulders (on its wings) are white in males and grey in females, and (across most of Australia) the rest of its body is black. In south-eastern, central and south-western Australia, including Tasmania, its back and rump are entirely white. Its eye is red-brown. Young birds are usually grey rather than black and have dark eyes.

Distinctive feature

One toe faces backwards and three face forwards. It has a square-tipped tail.

Size

36 – 44 cm long (from head to tail), with an average wing span of 76 cm

Behaviour

Call

A carolling, flute-like song, often calling together.

Diet

Small insects and animals that live on, or just under, the surface of the ground, including grasshoppers, scarab beetles, insect larvae, frogs and small lizards. During the day it walks along jabbing its beak into the ground, searching for food.

Flight

Swift, strong and direct, sometimes in flocks of several hundred birds.

Breeding

It is extremely territorial during the four to six weeks of the breeding season. The female usually selects a nest site, which is either high up a tree, on a power pole or on the roof of a building. The nest is a rough basket of sticks, twigs, plant stems and occasionally wire, lined with softer materials such as wool, hair, grass, feathers and shredded bark. The female lays between one and six eggs, which are either blue or green with brown blotching, and she sits on them for 20 days. She then feeds her young until they are about four weeks old, when they are ready to fly and leave the nest.

Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • Courting/Mating

  • Calling

  • Feeding

  • Bird on chicks

  • Bird on eggs

  • Bird on nest

  • Bird feeding young

Species: WhenAndWhere Image

When and Where

When To Look

Breeding occurs August to November in southern Australia, and May to June in the tropics.

Where To Look

Found throughout the Australian mainland, with the exception of most of the southern and south-eastern coastline, and inland arid areas.

Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

Similar Species

It can be distinguished from other black and white birds, such as the Australian Magpie (Craticus tibicen) and the Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) by the black head and bib separated from the black back by a complete white collar and white underparts.

The Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus) is smaller and less boldly marked with no black bib.

The Black-backed Butcherbird (Cracticus mentalis) of Cape York Peninsula does not have the black bib either.