Australian Bush Birds
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike  -  Coracina papuensis
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, north-western version with pale grey head and breast. Males have a black eye-line; females are grey.
photograph photograph
The black eye line is the major distinguishing feature of the White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike.
photograph photograph
Left. Grey back with black feathers edged white on the wing. Right. The black bill and black eye stripe of a male. The partial white eye circle behind the eye is common.
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike - page 2
map map The White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike - Coracina papuensis - is a mainly grey bird with a black band between eye and beak. Eye is black. In males this is dark black, in females it is grey. Eye is brown, bill and feet black. Length is 26 to 28 centimetres.

Upper parts are mainly grey (head, neck and upper back). Flight feathers are dusky grey. Tail feathers are dusky grey tipped white. Upper breast is pale grey. Underpart colour depends on the version; in the northwest under parts are nearly pure white, in the northeast they are pale grey and mid-grey in the southeast.

The version found in southeast Australia (from approximately the New South Wales-Queensland border to South Australia) has a brown-black head with a dark mottled upper breast merging into horizontal bars on the breast, the bars fade to white towards the tail.

Different naming schemes have different versions or races; sources vary from five to three.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes live in open eucalyptus forest and woodland around the north and east of Australia, avoiding the colder mountain areas. Distributed in a broad band reaching mostly hundred of kilometres inland and running along the coast from the Kimberley through the Top End to Cape York and down the east coast to Victoria and across Victoria to south-east South Australia. They forage on tree canopy and under-story shrubs flying from vantage perches and diving onto food - insects and fruit. When they land the birds settle their wings by flicking each separately into place.

These birds live in family groups of three to five. Pairs nest in well-dispersed territories.

Breeding takes place from August to March. The nest, built by both parents, is a shallow saucer of fine twigs and bark bound with spider web and moulded into the horizontal fork of a tree high above the ground. Two or three eggs are laid; green with brown and grey markings; oblong-oval, about 30 by 22 millimetres. Incubation by both parents takes about 20 days.

Juvenile Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes have a black patch on the face extending from the bill past the eye; this can look a little like the stripe on the White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike.