Pied Butcherbird - Cracticus nigrogularis
Australia has few finer songbirds than the pied butcherbird. Its loud, pure whistling notes ring through the still morning air and can be heard far from the perch where he sings. When in a dawn chorus with his cousin the grey butcherbird, a family of magpies, a flock of currawongs, and the occasional “crack” of a whipbird, the effect is pure magic.
If you listen carefully, you will discover that, like the whipbird, the song is usually a duet with the partner providing a cadenza.
They have adapted well to the presence of man. You only have to see and hear the family that congregates outside the local take-away shop, singing for their breakfast feed of hamburger mince...
They live in small family groups with the immatures helping to raise their younger siblings before being roundly ejected from the group to find their own territory or mate (the bird on the left is an immature nearly in full plumage - he will get his white collar later).
However, they are not called “butcherbirds” for nothing. This charming songster rates with hawks as the terror of small birds, but it feeds mainly by flying down from a perch and seizing its prey on the ground; although it is very capable of catching a ball of mince thrown to it on the wing!
Because it's feet are too small to hold down it's prey while tearing it up, it will wedge it's catch into a fork or on a thorn - an action which earns it its name - stand back and tear it apart with its hooked bill.
The pied butcherbird is distributed throughout mainland Australia except for the extreme southern coastlines.
Description adapted from the Reader's Digest “Complete Book of Australian Birds”, 1st ed., 2nd rev., 1979.
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