Saturday, December 10, 2016

Grey Butcherbird

Many birdwatchers and amateur naturalists have evocative bird sounds imprinted in their heads. Hear the call and images of places and times, often from long ago, are immediately recalled with the utmost clarity. The call of the Grey Butcherbird is one, (of several), that does this for me.

In the early morning in a past life, I would walk to work across a golf course and be serenaded by a chorus from the resident family of butcherbirds. One of the phrases of their calls was easy to mimic with a whistle and often we would conduct a duet with one another.
'Dueting' with me at my woodheap
A similar experience is beginning to occur in my backyard in Drouin. I have been able on several occasions recently, to ‘whistle-in’ a family of Grey Butcherbirds that have their territory staked in the large eucalypts in the nearby road reserve. I reward them with a small morsel of meat, (as in a bit of left over cat food generally – a strictly indoor moggy of course!).

Grey Butcherbirds are carnivorous birds with a diet consisting mostly of insects, small reptiles and other small birds and their nestlings, the latter being the reason behind the rather poor reputation of this fine Australian endemic bird. They are a predator species that engage in the perch-and-pounce technique of hunting and will sometimes suspend their prey in a forked branch before dismembering it, (hence ‘butcher’).
Grey Butcherbird at it's larder - a Rufous Fantail! (Thanks Jim for the pic)
Grey Butcherbirds, Cracticus torquatus (= ‘noisy’ & ‘collared’), are a widespread species that prefer open forest and woodland habitat. They have adapted well to human urbanization, living in our parks and gardens especially where large eucalypts are in the vicinity. They build a stick nest rather like a small version of their close relative the magpie.

A Drouin 'bakyard bird'.
A butcher at it's nest.

The call of the Grey Butcherbird is variously described with adjectives like rich, piping, mellow, bubbly, lilting and rollicking, (link – Graeme Chapman).

Welcome outside my window anytime.   

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