Grey Butcherbirds

Subject: Grey Butcherbirds
From: Penny Brockman <>
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2018 23:13:36 +1000
Dear all

I seem to remember that one of the reasons for the decline of Golden-shouldered Parrots in far north Qld was due to the growth of trees in the areas in which they bred, caused by the decline in aboriginal burning regimes. What had been open grassland had become woodland. This was said to gave the butcherbirds (Pied?) useful perches from which to watch for parrots nesting in the termite mounds.

Certainly my experience with the butchers in my garden is that they are very observant, patient and pounce at the right moment! Last year they took the eggs of a White-headed Pigeon nesting in a bottlebrush right by my back deck.  My garden (mainly natives) is now maturing with medium sized trees, lots of shrubs and almost no lawn, backed by a small 30 year old woodland, and although it provides lots of cover for small birds, they don't nest here.  A local neighbour feeds the butcherbirds and kookaburras which also helps them breed more successfully and more often.

I've noticed over the very hot summer we've just had and now the prolonged heat in April, small birds have sharply declined in my garden and surroundings. Used to see Brown and Yellow Thornbills daily, now only occasionally. I'm hoping the cooler weather will bring them back or perhaps allow a late breeding season. At least the butterflies have returned.....

Happy birding to all
Penny in Gloucester NSW

On 17/04/2018 12:34 PM, Martin Butterfield wrote:
I've now had a look at the data for suburbs and have come to a conclusion -
without being able to demonstrate it completely satisfactorily - that they
do support the suburb-maturation.

In summary there are a number of suburbs, mainly in North Canberra,
Belconnen and Woden  which were first developed in the 1960s and GBS sites
in those suburbs start reporting increases in Butcherbird numbers around
2000.   Particularly North Canberra and Woden keep growing in Butcherbird
numbers from then on.

As well as the (planted) vegetation within the suburbs maturing these areas
are all close to large areas of native vegetation on Mounts Majura, Ainslie
and Taylor from which the Butcherbirds spread out into the suburbs.


Martin Butterfield

On 16 April 2018 at 08:47, Martin Butterfield <> wrote:

For the Canberra area there is nice data available from the COG Garden
Bird Survey (GBS) to show the time series of abundance of birds.  For those
not familiar with the GBS - now in its 37th year - one of the key
statistics is Abundance (A) which is the average number of birds reported
per active site week.  For Grey Butcherbird it shows a dramatic increase
starting from 2005.

I had in the past attributed the increase to the 2003 fires in the
Brindabellas ​forcing the birds down to the urban area but in fact the
increase appears to start in 1999.  Possibly the rate of increase is
boosted by the fires (and a few rural sites coming into the GBS from 2004

What actually started the increase is a bit of a puzzle, but I suspect
Martin (excellent name, that) Cachard is close to the money in suggesting
the maturation of suburbs: in the case of Canberra this could be the
suburbs in the townships of Belconnen and Northern Tuggeranong developed in
the 1970s and 80s.  I'll try and look at some detail on this later today.

Martin Butterfield

Martin Butterfield

On 16 April 2018 at 06:26, martin cachard <> wrote:

perhaps the increase in butcherbirds around the suburbs of Melbourne in
the last few decades is because there is now more suitable habitat and
available food.

whenever I've visited Melb to see old friends & family, particularly
around the eastern burbs of Blackburn, Box Hill, the Waverley's, and the
Bayside areas, I have noticed some nice changes in the local native
birdlife there...

because I've lived up here in gorgeous FNQ since 1996, and these Melb
locales were my old stomping grounds from when I was a boy and a MUCH
younger man, these changes are not only a pleasant surprise, but they are
also rather obvious to me as I'm not visiting them very often...

in general, there are a lot more smaller birds around, like Brown
Thornbills, White-browed Scrub-wrens, Superb Fairy-wrens etc, in people's
residential gardens in these burbs. I hear butcherbirds calling in the dawn
chorus in pretty much every suburb I overnight in when visiting, much more
so than in the 70's to early 90's.

as suburbs like these develop and mature, so does the vegetation that is
within them as well - it seems to me that a nice mosaic of vegetation types
has thus been created, and with enough shrubbery and other cover to 'bring
back' such smaller songbirds as these, and of course, this supports more
families of butcherbirds.

the increasing controls on domestic cats has no doubt helped a great deal
as well.

and of course, this note of mine is a very general, and possibly a
slightly romanticised, view of things, but I reckon that this helps to
explain the butcherbirds increasing, especially in the greater eastern
suburbs where I am from, and have been visiting in the last 22 years too...

cheers for now,

martin cachard

writing to you now from a VERY NON-cyclone ravaged FNQ...

From: Birding-Aus <> on behalf of
Peter Shute <>
Sent: Monday, 16 April 2018 5:07 AM
To: Mike Carter
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Range of Weebill

What's the reason for the increase in butcherbirds? People feeding them?

Peter Shute

Sent from my iPad

On 15 Apr 2018, at 8:34 pm, Mike Carter <> wrote:

Hi Patrick, Buff-rumped Thornbill is even more unlikely; that 2006
publication that I mentioned lists that species as extinct on the
Peninsula. Yellow-rumped Thornbill is a possibility but is distinctive so
unlikely to be confused and has a patchy distribution. White-browed
Scrubwren has a prominent white eye and would be plundered by Grey
Butcherbirds which have become more common in built-up areas in the last
three decades.

<BR> Birding-Aus mailing list
<BR> To change settings or unsubscribe visit:
Birding-Aus Info Page<
BIRDING-AUS is a discussion group for anyone with an interest in
Australian wild birds. Read updates and trip reports from many parts of

<BR> Birding-Aus mailing list
<BR> To change settings or unsubscribe visit:
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU