Australian Bush Birds
Figbird  -  Sphecotheres vieilloti
Male Green Figbird at Port Macquarie with black head, red eye-patch, grey breast and neck, green back and under-side.
female Figbird male Figbird
Left: Female figbird - Right: Male figbird
The Figbird - Sphecotheres vieilloti - is a gregarious, medium-size bird, 28 to 30 centimetres long. Sexes are coloured differently. Females have the upper part olive brown streaked dark brown; underparts are white with brown streaking. Dark grey bare skin around the eye. Beak, legs and feet are grey.

Figbird - page 2
Figbird pair
Figbird pair, female close to camera, at Casino, NSW. The difference between the male and female is striking.
map map Males have different colouring depending on variety. From eastern Victoria along the east coast to central Queensland, the eastern variant vielloti - known as the Green Figbird - has a black head with a patch of bare skin around the eye which turns red during breeding; this bright red patch is very eye-catching.

Male Green Figbirds have a slate-grey collar; green-yellow back and upper surface; pale green underside merging into white around the vent. Beak is dark coloured, legs and feet are pink.

The other variant - flaviventris, the Yellow Figbird - is the northern version extending from coastal central Queensland to Cape York with pockets in the Top End of the Northern Territory and the Kimberley; this has black head, bare skin around the eye, green-yellow back and upper surface (same as the Green Figbird) but has a yellow breast and underside merging into white around the vent. Variants overlap on the central Queensland coastal and there is considerable hybridisation, usually expressed as differing amounts of yellow underside on males.

Immature male birds are coloured as for females. Males develop patchy male characteristics within a year.

Figbird Figbird
Left. Immature male Green Figbird. Right. Female figbird with fruit
Figbird - page 3
Male figbird at Berry Springs, near Darwin. This is a Yellow Figbird with black head and red eye patch but unusually subdued yellow tinting on the breast and underside.
Some naming schemes define a third variant (ashbyi) in the Top End and the Kimberley; this variant is similar to the Yellow Figbird but males are brighter yellow.

Figbirds breed from October to February. The nest is a light saucer of vine tendrils and a few twigs on a horizontal fork near the end of a branch, Three eggs are usually laid; shades of dull green with brown and purple spots; oval, 32 by 24 millimetres. Both sexes incubate the eggs; extra males may assist with brooding and feeding the chicks

After breeding, figbirds gather in larger flocks of 20 to 50 birds, sometimes more. Flocks feed in fruiting trees with a fondness for wild and cultivated figs climbing about in trees like parrots hanging from twigs and branches to reach fruit, insects and nectar; they pick all food in trees and bushes. There is constant chatter within the group while foraging and feeding. In Australia, they are found along the north and east coast and inland coastal regions wherever their food plants are found. Flocks are locally nomadic following food but rarely travel far.

Figbirds live along the edges of rainforests, mangrove and paperbark swamps, eucalyptus forests and woodlands, orchards and tropical gardens. Immature birds are nomadic, adults are sedentary. The species is common.