Grey Butcherbird

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.

Pied Butcherbird

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.

Black Butcherbird

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.

Juvenile Grey Butcherbird

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.

Butch’s youngsters
Butch growing up

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.

Black Butcherbird

We would see this juvenile each morning sitting out near our open air dining area.

juvenile Black Butcherbird

It is hard to believe that as the juvenile develops it will one day turn black when it matures.

Black Butcherbird immature

This little guy had found something but not sure what.

Black Butcherbird

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)


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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.

 

22 Comments »

  1. Hello Ash,
    It is a real pleasure to learn about your favorite bird, and the reason why it was named “butcher bird.” Our local Bull-headed Shrike (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bull-headed_shrike) has similar eating/mating behavior, so it is twice fascinating to see this in a different family of birds.

    My apologies, as I have been behind on reading my favorite blog posts (and have been remiss in checking the international news) I was not aware of the drastic weather in your country. We pray the situation has subsided, and for those who have been affected. The story of the man saving his emu is touching.

    Wishing you and all your dear ones a blessed week ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Takami, I understand that the current situation for you has made it difficult for you to keep up with the posts, but greatly appreciate that you have followed them up and commented, as your comments are always greatly appreciated. The weather has been lovely the last few days and the rain has had a rest, as many areas try to dry out as the rivers return to normal and flooding subsides. Many hundreds of people have lost homes and belongings, some for the second time in two years. We thank the Lord we were spared with minor water in the basement.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Deborah, yes I love its many songs, I just had a little laugh inside a few minutes ago when I heard him singing outside my window. The male sometimes comes and sits in the tree opposite and looks in and sings to me, as I provide water for him. He use to wash and drink in the dog’s drinking water but the dog is long gone so he enjoys our bird baths now. My local birds have become my pets.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can understand how these birds make you smile, Ashley, your post showcasing them made me smile! 😊 Their different songs are lovely, you shared some lovely photos and videos. I very much enjoyed seeing the juveniles both the one learning to sing and of the others patiently sitting on the branches, opening mouths in hopes of being fed. Sweet! Wow, that is a dramatic photo of the man saving his emu. Hope your rains subside soon to cease your flooding. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Donna, yes the rains have gone for now and many thousands are cleaning up with hundreds of homes without anything some got washed down river with animals etc. Thankfully we were spared and only had water in the basement. It was the most rain ever recorded in a day for several days. Many rivers are still in flood. The Butcherbird is such a delight and continues to remind me of God’s goodness and grace to me every day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robyn, yes the Butcherbirds are becoming quiet prolific as they have no predator to mention and they breed well in our area. I hear them calling almost every place I visit. Enjoy your weekend. Oh my new book was published today and will be launched Monday.

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  3. It was so good to hear the lovely melody of the pied butcherbird again, it is one of the few things I miss from my time living in Queensland. I do get to hear the greys here in Tassie sometimes when walking in a park. The last few weeks I have had a juvenile grey pecking at his reflection in my house windows and telling it off quite loudly! It’s the first time I’ve seen one around my place and I’m wondering if perhaps he is claiming this as his territory now. I hope you are staying safe up there with all this terrible flooding, I have seen so much of it on the news, absolutely devastating and heart wrenching to see. More animal rescue stories are appearing now, like that poor emu, glad he is safe now. Wishing you all the best during these trying times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue, how cute to have a youngster around the house, he may become a friend as they can become quite tame from a young age if you feed them meat, but the trouble is they may also become dependent on you which is not good.Thankfully we have been safe from flooding, it has disrupted us a little travelling around. I had to go to the national Park the long way today because the weir crossing was closed due to flooding. It has been such a tragedy for so many after such a hard year. Stay safe and keep warm as winter closes in.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sandra, these birds are fairly unique to Australia and are one of our top songbirds with many song variations. I am delighted you enjoyed hearing them. I hear them all day long from my office, they always give a lift to my day. I actually get concerned when I do not hear them during the day which can occur when they are nesting. Enjoy your week 🙂

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    • Thanks Jen, it has been much loss for many people in nearby towns and all the way up the coast as the rivers continue to rise even after the rain has gone. Thankfully the Lord has kept us safe, but it limits what we can do as many places are cut off. It has been a very trying two years for everyone, but more so to those who lost their hones in bushfire and now floods. Richest Blessings to you and the family, it is always encouraging to hear from you and for your prayers dear friend, we pray likewise that you and the family are kept safe during the Covid and the harsh winter. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your prayers as well, I will continue to pray for your safety and the restoration of those who have been harmed. Another reminder to be thankful everyday for what and who we have been blessed with in this life.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great Story, always good to be reminded of the wonder of Butcherbirds. We are a bit unfortunate and live in a ‘shadow’ between regular resident birds. just occassionally might get a single bird for a few weeks.
    PIty, as on either side they are quite prolific.
    When i was growing up, my Mother despised Butcherbirds, and I was always too young to ask why? But she never had a good word to say about them. Didn’t scar me, so I rather enjoy their bold company. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David, yes my grandmother hated them also because they use to bite the heads off her pet Canaries. She had to double mesh her cages so they could not coax the Canaries to poke their heads out. They don’t have a hook on their beak for nothing, they are like mini raptors in a small sense. My local clan have become a big part of my life as have the Maggie clan and Miners. The Rainbows are very transient depending on Bottlebrush blossom. Butch let me get quite close yesterday while he was drinking, but I took the last step down the stairs a little fast and he flew off. I have learnt how to get close but you have to maintain the same slow speed and stop looking directly at them. I can hear him now calling around the area, he sings all day long as do his family. They put up with the Miner harassment from time to time and are unperturbed, whereas the larger Kookaburras have moved further up the street and only occasionally visit, which usually finishes with the coalition attacking them till they leave. It is always a delight to hear the Kookas call in the morning, but it is vary rare, and thankfully they beat the Miners getting up in the morning. Hope this rain does not do too much damage down there, the flooding continues here despite the sunny days.

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  5. I have seen a Butcherbird in a zoo, but off course, you have them in your yard. They sound like whistling, and one of those sounded like a mixture of a dog whining and whistling. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lee, yes they have a very unique sound, especially the Pied it chimes and purrs. The Grey is such a happy little guy as they all are, and has become a lovely blessing each day at home, reminding me to give thanks and appreciate the gift.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was in fact wondering what your favorite bird is! Thank you brother, for sharing the Butcherbird with us. Well, I mentioned identifying the birds at my parents’ home, besides the Cardinals, Bluejays, and Woodpeckers. Well, turns out they’re Sparrows! Yes, various Sparrows. I will not say ‘just Sparrows’ because God mentions them in His word…’not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s knowledge’
    I am so grateful that God loves the ordinary!
    Thank you again for teaching about the Butcherbird. God bless you and your dear wife.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lisa Beth, yes for most people it is the Fairy-wrens and Kookaburras, but the Miners keep them away from our yard as they do their vigilant guard duty. Yes sparrows are special also, and your country has so many varieties if quite charming little guys that can actually make lovely tunes. We have only the House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow occasionally in many areas, but not here in Sydney as the Miners got rid of them. Sparrows are deemed a pest here, and are introduced from Britain. Have a blessed week dear sister 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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