As Aussiebirder I often get asked “What is your favorite bird?” and many get surprised when I tell them it is the Butcherbird. They become even more curious when they immediately go looking for it in my book and discover it was not included. Many of you who follow my blog know how my resident Butcherbird family, headed by Butch, make me smile and say “How beautiful !”, as they sing constantly through the day. Further up the coast where I lived much of my life, the Pied Butcherbird has one of the most amazing chimes, which would also delight me every morning.
Sydney and the north east coast of NSW has been pounded with rain, breaking all previous recorded records, creating state of emergency due to the extensive damage and loss of life caused by massive flooding of our big rivers. As this is occurring as I write this, I have not had an opportunity this week to leave my house, other than to shop in the very small windows when the rain was least intense so this week the Butcherbird family are featured.
Of the now five species of Butcherbird four are endemic to Australia. The Grey and Pied are the most common and are found over much of the continent, but only the Grey Butcherbird is present in Tasmania. The Black, Black-backed and Silver-backed are only found in the top end of Australia in Far North Queensland and northern parts of WA and NT. The Black-backed Butcherbird is also found in New Guinea. Of the five species we have only laid eyes on the three pictured above.
As you can see from the profile of the juvenile Butcherbird, even from a young age, the large powerful hooked beak is a classic feature of this omnivorous bird, which mainly consumes small reptiles, birds and rodents as well as the odd insect and fruit. They derive their name from their unusual custom of hanging their prey like a butcher hangs his meat on a meat hook, usually in the fork of a tree or crevice or on broken branch for later consumption, like a butcher’s cool room. Though I personally have never seen one ever do this, this is how it apparently was named.
The male may also do this to impress a new mate and present her with food, to show he is a good provider and that he will feed her when she mounts the nest to incubate the eggs. The hooked beak is feature like raptors for tearing prey. Here are some immatures calling in the morning to their parent.
Butcherbirds usually have 2 to 3 nestlings each season. My father of our local Grey Butcherbird clan brings his juvenile youngsters to visit me and introduce them to our source of water and shade.
The Butcherbird is one of Australia’s most musical songbirds, and can be heard all through the day calling with varied calls. At different times of year they will tend to use particular calls, but their laughing call delights me every time I hear it and makes me smile in my heart and give thanks for having the privilege of having this little clan so close. I can actually hear him laughing as I write this.
The Pied Butcherbird is not found around Sydney but is further up the coast. Listen to the melodious chimes of this bird, which are hauntingly beautiful in the early morning. These were the first sounds I would hear each morning when I lived in the country.
This immature Pied is practicing his song.
This is the Western race of the Pied Butcherbird which inhabits the desert regions and is more contrasting than our Eastern race. We saw this guy at Uluru in the red centre.
The Black Butcherbird we only see on our trips to Far North Queensland. It is all black, and has its own peculiar call but not as melodious as the other two. When we first heard it calling we initially thought it was the Orange-footed Scrubfowl which lives up there also as it sounded similar. When we could not find it after looking low in the scrub we looked up and found it was a pair of Butcherbirds, but they were very shy.
We would see this juvenile each morning sitting out near our open air dining area.
It is hard to believe that as the juvenile develops it will one day turn black when it matures.
This little guy had found something but not sure what.
Have a wonderful week. We are all recovering from the heaviest week of rain ever experienced on the east coast of Australia, with extensive destructive flooding which continues even today on a clear blue sky, as the rivers continue to rise. We had the drought, then the fires and smoke, then the Covid, and just when were starting to get back to normal, the flooding rains… this is Australia.
Click on the pic below to see some news footage from Channel 9, of a man saving his pet Emu from the flood waters:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” – Job 12: 7-10 (NIV)
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,
So we can learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.