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Neither cuckoo nor shrike

November 12, 2019

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

Following the previous post by Ronlit on unexpectedly finding water birds nesting high in trees, in the case of the Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike it is not unexpected at all for this arboreal bird, but what is surprising is that a) we managed to spot one high up in a large Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) right outside our front gate, and b) that cuckoo-shrikes ever manage to successfully breed since their nest is typically a small, shallow and flimsy affair precariously balanced in the fork of a branch and so is very susceptible to strong winds (and is very hard to see from below!).

Change-over time at nest duties

The Black-faced is the most widespread and common of the cuckoo-shrikes. It is migratory/nomadic, usually heading north in winter, but in 2010 it was recorded here in all months of the year. Both sexes share nest-building, incubation and feeding young.

White-winged Triller male

Another migratory bird in the cuckoo-shrike family (Campephagidae – meaning caterpillar-eater) is the White-winged Triller (pictured below) which is turning up in numbers in our district and, unusually, around southern Victoria, including Melbourne suburbs. The abundance of White-winged Trillers is known to fluctuate widely, and the last time we had a big influx of trillers was in 2013, when they could be heard in spring all around the Flowerdale/Strath Creek area.

Like all the cuckoo-shrike family, these two birds are unrelated to either cuckoos or shrikes. The origin of the name remains a mystery, though unconvincing explanations have been proposed about cuckoo-like plumage and flight, and shrike-like bill. As Fraser and Gray say in their book Australian Bird Names “… it is another awful combination of names of birds of entirely different orders…”.

To hear local recordings of the cuckoo-shrike and triller calls/song, click on the audio below.
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike:

White-winged Triller:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Terry Hubbard permalink
    November 12, 2019 8:17 am

    Thanks Dave, T


  2. Peter Mitchell permalink
    November 12, 2019 11:01 am

    great recordings – with sheep in the background!

  3. Susan permalink
    November 12, 2019 11:07 am

    Great David and Laurie… seems like you had this all prepared from our meeting last night. We will be on the lookout for White-winged Trillers 🙂

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