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Butcher Birds

Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus

The adult Grey Butcherbird has a black crown and face and a grey back, with a thin white collar. The wings are grey, with large areas of white and the underparts are white. The grey and black bill is large, with a small hook at the tip of the upper bill. The eye is dark brown and the legs and feet are dark grey. Grey Butcherbirds measure 24cm - 30cm, and both sexes are similar in plumage, but the females are slightly smaller than the males. The song is a lovely rich piping with some mimicry and harsher notes.

Young Grey Butcherbirds resemble adults, but have black areas replaced with olive-brown and a buff wash on the white areas. The bill is completely dark grey and often lacks an obvious hook. They are sometimes mistaken for small kingfishers.

The Black Butcherbird, C. quoyi, from the rainforests and mangroves of the north of Australia is all black, with a blue-grey bill. The widespread Pied Butcherbird, C. nigrogularis, is larger and boldly marked in black and white.

Pied Butcher Bird Cracticus nigrogularis

The Pied Butcherbird is a medium-sized black and white bird (33cm - 37cm). It has a full black hood, dark brown eye and long, hooked, grey and black bill. It has a broad white collar that goes all around its neck and a black bib (throat area). The rest of the underparts are white and the legs are black. The upper parts are mostly black, with large patches of white on the wings and rump. In flight, the white corners of the otherwise black tail are easily seen. Both sexes have identical plumage, but the male is slightly larger than the female. The Pied Butcherbird's voice is a beautiful, melodious fluting, sometimes given in turn by several individuals. Many people consider this the best singer of Australia's birds.

Young Pied Butcherbirds are generally duller than the adults are. The areas of black are replaced with brown and white areas are washed with buff. The birds also have an ill-defined bib, which becomes more distinct with age.

The Pied Butcherbird is larger and more boldly marked than the Grey Butcherbird, C. torquatus, and can be separated from the Black-backed Butcherbird, C. mentalis, of Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, which lacks a black bib. It can be distinguished from other black and white birds, such as the Australian Magpie, Gymnorhina tibicen, and the Magpie-lark, Grallina cyanoleuca, by the black head and bib separated from the black back by a complete white collar, and white underparts. The bill is much larger than that of the Magpie-lark.

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