Many Australians may be familiar with the little black and white pied butcherbirds that frequent parks and backyards and their beautiful bird song they have, but something I discovered recently was that they are mimics, and rather good ones at that!
One of my regular pied butcherbirds was visiting on the veranda and I was inside the house listening to it singing away merrily and then I thought I could hear other bird calls in amongst its tunes. Being curious, I grabbed my camera and went out onto the veranda and waited. After a bit, the bird started singing again and then I heard it sing a currawong call! I started filming and was blown away by all the different bird calls this pied butcherbird sang, it was amazing!
This little birdie sang for quite a long time, so I have just taken the last 2 minutes of the recording which shows the variety of bird calls it was imitating. Have a listen for yourself:
No one believed me until I showed them my video. I have been visited by this bird a few times now on rainy days, and it is such a treat to listen to all its tunes. Maybe it gets bored and wants to entertain me! 😀
Above is a photo of a juvenile grey butcherbird that I spotted just recently, and I was really happy to see it because I last saw this bird in early February and was worried that something had happened to it.
In a way, something did happen to it – it grew up and found it’s own way to the front of our property where it seems to be happily living and surviving.
The bird caught my eye diving to the ground catching bugs after my husband mowed the lawn.
The last time I saw this little bird, it was small and thin, coloured various shades of brown and was tagging along behind its parents. Now, it’s out on its own, looks healthy, and the brown feathers are starting to turn black around its head and the brown feathers on its back are starting to turn black and grey.
I did some research on the internet about the grey butcherbirds and in some families, the juveniles leave home early instead of hanging out with the parents for another year to help bring up the next lot of babies. Maybe this would explain why the two young ones suddenly stopped visiting back in February. Perhaps things are good in our area and the young ones decided it was time to move out. Or maybe mum and dad sent them on their way!
You can click here to read my earlier post about the grey butcherbird family that’s been visiting us.
The other day I was shocked to see one of my regular pied butcherbird visitors turn up looking like this.
Clearly, the poor bird had just been in some kind of fight, and it looked like it was a vicious one.
I’m happy to say that the bird turned up again the following day and looked nice and clean again. The bird seems fine and is continuing to visit us with the rest of its family. Here are pictures of what the bird looks like now.
It makes me wonder, who was the bird’s opponent and how did they look after the battle?
We had never seen grey butcherbirds at our place until November 2016, when I saw a whole family of them turn up in my backyard. Where they came from, or even why they appeared, remains a mystery.
The adult grey butcherbird has a beautiful grey, white and black colouring.
The juveniles are coloured brown and beige.
The family of greys were often seen perched on the roof of the garage. They almost always stay out the back, except on the odd occasion when they venture out the front, only to be swooped on by the pied butcherbirds. This makes for some interesting observations when a pied swoops on a grey and then lands on the veranda railing looking quite pleased with himself, and he is then swooped on by a grey butcherbird as payback. The look on their face is priceless!
It’s always interesting observing birds, and I captured this strange moment on my camera between an adult and juvenile.
Have you figured out yet why this bird is called a butcherbird? These birds hang their prey (lizards, mice, beetles, insects and even chicks) on a twig or in a fork of a branch and then use their sharp hooked beak to hack away at it.
Despite its intimidating looks, the grey butcherbird has a lovely musical song. Below is a video of one of the juveniles practising his singing.
I’ve managed to also capture some of the grey butcherbird calls in the audio recordings below. They have quite a repertoire!
Here is one of the juveniles looking right at me!
I haven’t seen either of the juvenile birds since the start of February. I have only seen the two adults. I miss my little juveniles turning up on the veranda to practise their singing. I wonder if something happened to them because it is my understanding that they’re supposed to hang around with their parents for about a year and help out with the raising of the next lot of babies (like the kookaburras and pied butcherbirds), before they fully colour up and go out on their own. Does anyone know if the juveniles always stay with their parents to help raise future chicks before going it alone, or is it possible the young ones have already moved on as they would have been about 4 months old the last time I saw them?
This is a lovely juvenile pied butcherbird that comes to visit everyday, and in the last few days he has been sitting on the veranda practising his song. Yesterday he was singing close to the door, so I grabbed my camera and cautiously went outside so as not to disturb him. He didn’t seem bothered at all by my being so close and he continued on with his birdsong. Here is a short clip of one of the videos I was able to take of him.
I always love listening to the various tunes sung by the pied butcherbird. So many different sounds they make. I managed to get a short video of two juvenile pied butcherbirds practicing their singing together. In the video you can also hear a juvenile magpie off camera who is also practicing his carolling. These young ones are fascinating to watch. I can’t think of any other bird who puts so much gusto into their singing with full body movements accompanying their beautiful tunes.
And if you want to listen to more of the magpie’s sweet carolling, you can watch this video. You can hear the young butcherbirds off camera.
It was a busy week for wildlife visitors, not sure why, the weather perhaps, or just that time of year. We had the usual regulars, plus a few infrequent visitors, a visitor who has never been here before, and we also had a very special guest! See who they all are in the photos below.
Here’s our regulars –
Here are a couple of visitors that we don’t see very often –
This is a visitor that is new to our place –
And here is our very special guest –
Sorry about the quality of these last 2 photos, they were taken without a flash in the semi darkness. Mummy possum insists on sitting in the bird feeder just out of reach of the veranda light. I tried to lighten them up a bit. This was the first night out of the pouch for the little joey. He is so tiny and cute! You can see him sniffing and looking around at his strange new world. He is our very special guest this past week and we hope to be seeing more of him and watch grow up. 🙂
Since the magpies around our house had a nest with babies, they have been scaring off all the regular meat eating birds, and it’s only now that their babies are nearly grown and becoming independent that they are more tolerant of the other birds. It’s been nice to see the pied butcherbirds returning and singing their musical songs while perched on our veranda. I thought they might have babies in a nest nearby themselves because they collected any meat I left out for them and disappeared with it. So it was a nice surprise yesterday when I saw two baby pied butcherbirds in the gum tree out the back. Of course they were screeching for food and an adult was patiently sitting on the veranda railing waiting, so I put out a bit of minced beef and took this video.
Later in the day, I spied the young ones out the back playing with each other and being taught a thing or two by their parents. I took these videos from inside the house looking through a window so it may not be crystal clear vision and there is no sound so I just dubbed some music on it. Sorry about the steel framework getting in the way sometimes.
And here’s a video of a young butcherbird playing with some dead leaves. I love how he picks up bigger and bigger ones!
Pied Butcherbirds are one of my favourite birds. They have such an amazing song repertoire. I hope they continue to stick around.