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Rufous Whistler  -  Pachycephala rufiventris
Male Rufous Whistler
Male Rufous Whistler at Casino, NSW. The colour sequence of white/black/rufous down from the bill in the male is distinctive.
Male Rufous Whistler
Male Rufous Whistler at Casino, NSW. The colour sequence of white/black/rufous down from the bill in the male is distinctive.
map map Male and female Rufous Whistler - Pachycephala rufiventris - have different markings. The male has a black bill and large white throat patch with black edge which continues as a black band to surround the eye. Crown is grey continuing down the back and onto the sides. Wings feathers are grey-brown with pale margins. The breast and underparts are rufous. Grows to 16 to 18 centimetres.

In females the white throat patch is reduced to a lighter area merging with a pale buff or yellowish breast, abdomen and under parts. The throat and breast are marked with dark brown broken streaks. Bill is brown. Juveniles have extensively streaked rufous under parts.

Forages in pairs or alone, moving methodically through tree and shrub canopy searching for insects, including larvae; berries and fruit are rarely taken. Rarely seen on the ground. The methodical way this bird searches a tree for insects is striking and most unlike the way most birds forage.

Rufous Whistler - page 2
Female Rufous Whistler
Female Rufous Whistler near Armidale, NSW. Although this species is seldom seen on the ground this bird has landed near a waterhole for a bath and drink. The underside stripes are visible; so is the white breast immediately below the throat grading quickly into the pale russet colour on the lower underside..
Breeds from September to February; monogamous pairs establish territories and engage in mutual displaying and bowing, birds often call in chorus. Territorial defence is initially by singing leading into mutual displays by males within half a metre of each other. Displays can become chasing fights with resident females assisting.

The male inspects potential nest sites but the female appears to make the choice and she builds the nest. Both parents incubate the eggs. Both sexes feed the young. The nest is a flimsy cup of fine twigs and grasses lined with fine grass and rootlets placed in a tree-fork or low bush up to 10 metres above the ground but usually lower. Two or three eggs are laid; dull olive blotched dark brown; oval, about 23 millimetres by 17 millimetres. Incubation takes 12 to 15 days and the young fledge in 10 to 15 days.

Early in the breeding season the young from the previous season are driven out of the parental territory. Breeding birds are mostly sedentary.

Distributed over most of the Australian continent, except for the driest parts. Inhabits mostly open forest, woodland, mallee and scrub in the arid interior; less common in wetter tall forest. Also found in New Caledonia.

grey back of male Rufous Whistler male Rufous Whistler grey back and rufous underside
Left: The male Rufous Whistler has a grey back which can be misleading; from behind there is no sign of the coloured front. Right; The grey back on a male contrasts with the rufous underside visible here.
Rufous Whistler - page 3
female rufus underside Rufous Whistler male Rufous Whistler grey back and rufous underside
Female Rufous Whistler; on the left the rufous underside is prominent on a bird steadily foraging in a tree; on the right the streaked breast can be seen.
Similar Species. The distinctive colouring of the male Rufous Whistler readily separates it from other species. Female and immature birds can be distinguished from most other whistlers by the heavy streaking on the underparts.


 ¶  Genus Pachycephala rufiventris is in Family Pachycephalidae containing the Whistlers, Shrike-tit, Shrike-thrushes and Crested Bellbird.

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