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Southern Whiteface  -  Aphelocephala leucopsis
Southern Whiteface
Southern Whiteface showing the white underside, the grey-brown back and the white band across the face prompting the common name.
Southern Whiteface Southern Whiteface
The Southern Whiteface is a mainly brown bird; this colouring merges well with the dry grass the bird often forages over.
map map The Southern Whiteface - Aphelocephala leucopsis - is a small, mostly dull-coloured bird. The head and back are deep grey-brown with dusky flecks on the crown. The tail is grey-brown with white tips on all but the central pair of feathers. Wings are deep grey-brown. Face has a white horizontal band above the beak reaching nearly to the eye; above the white band is a dark (nearly black) band tapering into the brown crown. Under parts are cream washed olive-grey on the breast. Flanks are brownish-red in the eastern version and rufous in the western version. The eye is white or with a small white 'eyebrow'. Legs and feet are black-brown. Bill is grey-black, short and pointed. Male and female similar, immature birds are similar to adults.

Lives in open woodland and shrubby grassland. Found across southern Australia up to 23° South latitude.

The Southern Whiteface has a stout finch-like bill used to pick up seeds during ground foraging when insects and plant shoots are taken as well; the stomach contains grit to help grind seed. Foraging birds use their bills to turn over pieces of dung and debris.

Southern Whiteface - page 2
Usually working over bare ground they sometimes work up the trunks of dead trees probing into cracks.

This is a gregarious bird foraging in small parties of 10 to 15, sometimes up to 50, birds. Sometimes feeds with other species such as the Yellow-rumped Thornbill.

If alarmed, Southern Whitefaces fly on or perch in dead trees, twittering in alarm.

There are two versions of the Southern Whiteface, one eastern (race leucopsis the other western (race castanelventris. The boundary between the races is in Western Australia with the western race, identifiable by a broad rufous sash down the flanks, found in the southern Pilbara and northern Goldfields District east to the fringes of the Gibson Desert and the Great Victoria Desert.

They are sedentary and groups probably forage in the same area all year. During breeding, groups do not appear to break up into obviously territorial nesting pairs; breeding could be communal.

Breeding takes place from June to November, influenced by rain for interior living birds. The nest is a large, untidy dome of bark strips and grasses, lined with feathers, fur, wool and sometimes plant material. The nest is built in tree hollows, holes in fence posts or in low foliage of shrubs or trees. Two to five eggs are laid; dull white to buff, lightly marked with brown to red freckling, sometimes indistinct; oblong-oval, about 19 by 14 millimetres. After fledging the young spend a few days huddling in bushes before following their parents and learning how to feed.

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