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  1. 149 Male photo by David Cook Wildlife Photography
  2. 149_0 Female photo by David Cook Wildlife Photography
  3. Rufous_whistler_female_by_peter_feats-cropped Female Rufous Whistler by Peter Feats
  4. Male_rufous_whistler_by_greg_miles-cropped Male by Greg Miles

Rufous Whistler

Pachycephala rufiventris


  • Colour: the male is dark-grey on top, with a white throat, a black band across its breast and a reddish underbody. Some subspecies also have a black mask. The female is a dull grey to brown with a buff underbody that has brown streaks. Its stubby beak is dark grey, as are its legs and feet.
  • Juvenile birds have a reddish tinge on the upperbody and are heavily streaked on their underparts.
  • It has a narrow, relatively long tail with a square or slightly forked tip.
  • Size: 15 – 18 cm


  • Call: A long, loud series of ringing notes.
  • Diet: Mainly insects, especially their larvae, including grasshoppers, beetles, moths, butterflies and cicadas, but some may also occasionally eat seeds, fruit and leaves. It usually forages in trees and tall shrubs, and rarely on the ground.
  • Movement: It remains in some areas throughout the year, but some populations in eastern Australia undertake seasonal migratory movements, moving south to their breeding grounds during spring and returning north in autumn.
  • Breeding: It breeds in monogamous pairs. The female builds a loose, cup-shaped nest from twigs, grass, vines and bark, using spider web to bind them together and attach the nest to a tree fork. After mating, the female usually lays two or three eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 13 or 14 days. Both parents feed and care for the young, which remain in the nest for up to 15 days after hatching. Two broods are sometimes produced in a season.

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating 
  • Calling 
  • Feeding 
  • Bird on chicks 
  • Bird on eggs 
  • Bird on nest 
  • Bird feeding young

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

The effects of climate change may influence a change in the timing of migrational movements by Rufous Whistlers.  It may also affect the timing of when they start to breed and the duration of their breeding activities. Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?"

When To Look

  • From July to February for breeding behaviour
  • During spring and summer for migratory birds in eastern Australia that have moved south to breed.

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes in the timing of these events so remember to keep a lookout from July for breeding behaviour!

Where To Look

  • In open forests, woodlands and shrublands that have a shrubby understorey. It is also found in urban gardens and farmland with trees, and in remnant patches of bushland.
  • Forests and woodlands; suburban gardens with some tree cover. Look in trees and tall shrubs, between 2 and 14 metres above the ground, where it often feeds.
  • Throughout mainland Australia; seldom visits Tasmania.

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes outside of their known ranges so remember to keep a lookout anywhere in Australia!

Rufous Whistler occurrence ALA



Higgins PJ and Peter JM (eds) 2002. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Morcombe M 2000. Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing, Brisbane.

Serventy VN (ed.) 1982. The Wrens and Warblers of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the Australian Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney. 

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  1. What Else?

    Another whistler: the streaking on the underparts of females and juveniles distinguish it from other whistlers, and the male is distinctive with its combination of rufous underparts, grey head and white throat. 

  1. Did You Know?

    The call recording is by David Stewart Naturesound

    Four subspecies of the Rufous Whistler are recognised in Australia.

    It also occurs in New Caledonia.

    Its average weight is 25 grams.

    Both members of a breeding pair, but particularly the male, actively defend their territory. A study in NSW found the average size of a breeding territory was 1.2 – 4.2 hectares, while a study in WA found it was 3.2 hectares, with birds foraging in an area of 32 hectares outside the breeding season.

  1. Listen to the Call