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Whistler’s return

October 1, 2013
Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler

One of the delights of spring for us is the return of the Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) and, following the example of Ronlit, we should tell you that the scientific name means ‘rufous-bellied thick-head’, an unkind name for a beautiful bird, even though it does describe its rather large round head. Its ringing song heralds the breeding season.
In south-east Australia Rufous Whistlers generally migrate north in autumn, although we have had a report of them over-wintering at Flowerdale. At our place they have never been recorded in the period May to July. This year the whistler was first heard here on 23rd September, but its return has varied from late August to early October in recent years. At present there are several of the whistlers chasing each other around the garden.
One of the advantages of keeping monthly bird records is that you can compare the presence of birds from year to year and the arrivals and departures of migratory birds. The chart below shows that for much of the year the Rufous Whistler tends not to co-exist here with the other local whistler – the Golden Whistler. Another interesting observation from the chart is that February 2009, when the Black Saturday fires occurred, was the only February when neither whistler was present.
Whistler chart


The Rufous Whistler is common and widespread over much of mainland Australia, but absent from Tasmania. To hear some typical phrases from the Rufous Whistler’s song book, click on the audio bar below.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 1, 2013 12:36 pm

    Rufous Whistlers arrived here (Boho South, Strathbogie Ranges) on the 23.9.13, similar to previous years, and their beautiful, varied song is a dominant part of the daily bird chorus. Our White-throated Thickheads (as Golder Whistlers used to be known) are year-round residents (like yours), but they do tend to take a back seat, vocally, once their rufous cousins arrive. Bert.

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