Australian Bush Birds
Sandstone Shrike-thrush  -  Colluricincla woodwardi
Sandstone Shrike-thrush Sandstone Shrike-thrush
The Sandstone Grey Shrike-thrush is a shy and wary bird which keeps on the move through sandstone rock formations. The grey back and buff-orange underparts are clearly visible in the left photograph
map map The Sandstone Shrike-thrush - Colluricincla woodwardi - is more slender, with a longer tail, than the Grey Shrike-thrush. The back is brown to olive-brown, face and throat buff white, breast is grey-buff with light streaks, lower breast and under parts are deeper buff approaching orange. Bill is black in males and mid-grey-brown in females. Size is about 25 centimetres.

Unlike other Shrike-thrushes which live in trees the Sandstone Shrike-thrush inhabits sandstone regions and lives in sandstone cliffs and gorges, among boulders on ridges and in crevices. Forages alone or in pairs among the rocks for small lizards, grasshoppers and spiders. Frequently forages on foot then flies to the next feeding site. Dives under cover among rocks when disturbed; sings from high points on cliff tops and pinnacles and nests on sheltered rock ledges. Occasionally perches in trees but that is a rare event for this rock-living bird.

Found only in three isolated populations in the north Kimberley and northern Top End extending along the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Previously considered to be three different sub-species these are now considered to be variants of a single species. This species was discovered in 1902 in the Arnhem Land escarpment.

The Sandstone Shrike-thrush is sedentary; established pairs hold the same large territory all year.

Breeding takes place from November to January. The nest is a bulky bowl of interwoven, thin roots, mostly spinifex but including bark; lined with finer rootlets and grasses. Usually placed in a crack or hole in sandstone cliff, or underneath overhanging rocks with a clear view outward. The shape is sometimes distorted to an oval or rough triangle to fit the shape of the cavity in the sandstone selected to hold the nest.

Two or three eggs are laid; pearly white with well-defined brown-black, brown and slate-grey spots, mostly large and sparingly distributed, mostly at the large end; oval, about 30 by 21 millimetres. Incubation takes about 16 days.