Pied Butcherbird

Pied Butcherbird Male
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Aliases Endangered status Relationship with other birds
Appearance Gallery Relationship with people
Diet Observer hints Social system
Distribution Nearest relatives

Information presented based on South East Queensland


Species name

Other names

Cracticus nigrogularis Black-throated Butcherbird
Black-throated Crow-shrike
Organ Bird


Derivation of Cracticus nigrogularis:





Crac-tic-us Greek cracticos loud-voiced
ni-gro-gu-la-ris Latin niger black
gularis throated

Why Butcherbird? large food items are wedged in the fork of two branches and torn apart or butchered using the hooked beak


Size Relative to Other Birds:

Smaller birds

Birds of similar size

Larger birds

Willie Wagtail Grey Butcherbird Australian Magpie
Noisy Miner Magpie Lark currawongs
wrens Spotted Turtle-dove crows
sparrows Crested Pigeon  

Distinguising features

Effect of age on plummage

Adult White, totally black
Subadult White, black with dark brown tinge to wing and tail feathers (best seen in sunlight); continues for a number of years
(in its first year)
Pale buff bib, creamy belly, dark brown head, tail, and wings; moulting into subadult plumage occurs during its second summer at about 12-15 months of age (Gallery)



Breeding Season August to December
Frequency of Breeding once

may renest if the first nest is destroyed soon after hatching

Nest Construction open, bowl of sticks and twigs lined with grass

a new nest is built each year, usually in a different tree

built by dominant female of the group (occasionally another female in the group will also have nest)

additional nests are built by others but are not used - practice?

Nest Location in an upright fork, 5-15 m up, with overhanging branches for shade and out towards the edge of the foliage
Eggs incubated by dominant female

not affected by cuckoos

Nestlings 1-4, average of 2

brooded by dominant female

fed by most if not all group members i.e.

cooperative breeders where individuals other than the parents help to raise the young (also known in mammal and insect societies)

produce faecal sacs which are removed by attendants and dropped away from the nest; fighting between helpers for possession of the sacs is not unknown

just prior to fledging, nestlings stand on the nest and stretch their wings and are lifted by the wind; those that don't do this tend to be weak fliers initially

Fledglings fledging occurs about 4 weeks after hatching

fledglings continue to be fed and defended by the rest of the group


invertebrates grubs (insect larvae), worms, insects especially moths, beetles, and grasshoppers
vertebrates skinks, frogs, birds, mice
vegetable matter flower petals, fruits


Range Australian mainland except coastal, southern New South Wales, Victoria, southern South Australia, and south-west Western Australia
Habitat woodlands, anywhere with trees

not in heavily timbered areas; benefited from forest clearing

parks, gardens

Status common
Seasonal Movements none, sedentary

Endangered status - not at all!

Adult gleaning prey
from tree trunk
Adult watching prey
on the ground
(Photo: A.Liedloff)
Immature Immature moulting

Observer hints

Optimal times and places

Relationship with people

Relationship with other birds

Nearest relatives

  GENUS Cracticus FAMILY Artamidae
  * grey butcherbird §
* black butcherbird §
* black-backed butcherbird §

Australian magpies §
currawongs §

Characteristics sturdy bodies
robust, straight beaks with hooked tip
black /grey / white coloration
loud voices
strong and agile in flight

* Pied Butcherbird is

  • sympatric with this species meaning that the distributions of the two species overlap
  • (two species are said to be allopatric where distributions do not overlap)
§  formerly belonged to Family Cracticidae

Social system



Seasonal movements


  • none, sedentary
  • maintain permanent, year-round territories
Group size


  • 3- 15, average of 6
  • group sizes tend to be smaller in suburban areas than in rural areas
  • groups increase in size by retaining the offspring of previous years and as few birds are able to move into established territories, groups tend to be family-based
Dominance relationships
  • there is a dominant female that is involved in nesting activities
  • no obvious pair bond
  • at least 8 years probably much longer
  • about 60% of fledglings survive their first year
  • fledglings remain in their natal group until they have moulted into subadult plumage
  • occurs prior to breeding season in June-August
  • members of a group roost together at night
  • location of the roost changes frequently
  • roosting often involves a number of sneaky flights from tree to tree before settling
  • there is one final alarm-like call made by a single bird in each group that can be heard during this period
Territory defence against other groups
  • carried out using vocal displays each day to signal who's where
  • for adjacent territories, there are aerial contests that involve magnificent circling flights, lots of noise, but very little contact; may hear the clacking of beaks
Defence against predators
  • involves continual harrassment often worked in waves so that as one set of defenders tires another set is ready to take over
  • works effectively with aerial predators like hawks and Kookaburras where the defenders swoop about the head of a perched offender
  • with snakes, a group of birds peck at different parts of the body of the snake causing it to writhe one way and then another until it falls off the branch
  • combine with Noisy Miners in these defence strategies