Magnificent song of the Pied Butcherbird

Pied butcherbirds are relatively common birds that you are likely to have in your garden or local park.

There are butcherbirds in Lorn and a whole family at Rathluba Lagoon.

They are renowned for their song, slow beautiful flute-like notes often sung with several other birds.

Each bird develops its own musical repertoire. Listening to them sing is a delightful way to start the day.

The singing ability of the Pied Butcherbird has not gone unnoticed.

Just recently a study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science which investigated the singing performance of the birds in the wild.

The study found that the musicality of the birds is so complex and almost similar to that of a human that it contradicts evolutionary prediction.

Butcherbird songs have many phrase types, indicating song diversity and like jazz musicians they improvise balancing repetition and variation.

Some composers have been so inspired by the butcherbird that they have written music incorporating their songs.

Pied Butcherbirds have a white body and a black hood extending well down the upper breast. They have a broad white rear collar and a black tail with white corners.

YOUNG: An immature Pied Butcherbird.

YOUNG: An immature Pied Butcherbird.

The bill is blue-black with a finely hooked tip. Immature birds are brown and white.

ON SONG: A Butcherbird singing, one of the most beautiful songs of the bush.

ON SONG: A Butcherbird singing, one of the most beautiful songs of the bush.

They are found in drier woodlands, coastal scrub, watercourses, farmland and gardens.

Pied Butcherbirds are sociable and often live in groups of three or four adults and several younger birds.

They breed from August to November and the dominant female will build an untidy nest of twigs and sticks lined with grass, in the fork of a tree, and incubate the eggs.

Three to four eggs are laid often by more than one female.

When the chicks hatch they are fed and guarded by all the members of the group. For the unwary, it is not unusual to be swooped upon by a protective bird if you venture too close to the nest.

BRILLIANT SONG: The strikingly coloured Pied Butcherbird is renowned for its song, among the finest of all birds.

BRILLIANT SONG: The strikingly coloured Pied Butcherbird is renowned for its song, among the finest of all birds.

Butcherbirds are aggressive feeders and eat small reptiles, mammals, frogs, ground birds and large insects.

They are called butcherbirds because of their habit of wedging food items between branches or on a sharp spur or thorn before tearing it apart with the hooked beak.

I have witnessed a masked lapwing chick being dealt with in this way.

The Australian bush and our gardens would not be the same without the distinctive song of the Pied Butcherbird.

The Hunter Bird Observers Club website can be found at: www.hboc.org.au/.

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