A pair of Grey Butcherbirds (Cracticus torquatus) have been frequent lockdown visitors to the backyard. We think their dapper plumage is chic and elegantly understated, and their sharp, intelligent eyes make them very photogenic.
Whilst we see a pair, we’ve never seen them together. We hear them duetting, but they tend to show themselves singly. The only way we tell them apart is by their lores – the part running from the base of the bill to the leading point of the eye.
Reference guides seem to say that the adult female has a large loral spot. That leads us to believe that this is the female:
The Grey Butcherbird will eat some fruits and seeds, but the main part of their diet is insects and lizards, and sometimes the chicks of other birds. They are aggressive predators, adopting the wait and pounce strategy. Prey is generally taken on the ground, and they fly back to a perch to eat it.
Their name comes from their habit of wedging prey into a cleft in a tree, or even impaling it on a twig or thorn to hold it in place while they consume it – much in the manner of a butcher hanging a carcass.
Guides that we have read state that the male’s loral spot is “neat and round”. The second of the pair has slightly neater lores, but they couldn’t really be described as “round”. Nonetheless, we take this to be Mr Butcherbird:
Their song is fast becoming as anthemic as the Magpie’s in the Sydney region. It is loud, piping call has been described as “rollicking”, and can carry quite a distance. When we’ve seem them singing, they certainly throw their heads back, open their throats, and give it some!