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Grey Butcherbird, Cracticus torquatus

Grey Butcherbird
Photo copyright Dave Watts


The Grey Butcherbird is a medium-sized  bird (up to 300mm) with grey upperparts and a black crown and face separated by a thin white collar. The wings are black with white streaks and the underparts are pale grey and white. The blue-grey bill has a black, slightly hooked tip. The eye is dark brown and the legs and feet are dark grey.

Both sexes are similar in plumage, but the females are slightly smaller and have a slightly browner head than the males. Young Grey Butcherbirds resemble adults, but have black areas replaced with olive-brown and a buff wash on the white areas.


Grey Butcherbirds are found in a range of wooded habitats, including sclerophyll forests, coastal scrub, wooded farmland and suburban areas.


Grey Butcherbirds are bold, aggressive predators, preying on small animals, including mammals, birds and lizards, although insects make up the bulk of their diet. They also eat some fruits and seeds. They sit watchfully on an open perch before pouncing on their prey. Feeding normally takes place alone, in pairs or in small family groups.

Butcherbirds get their name from their habit of hanging captured prey in a tree fork. 


The Grey Butcherbird's nest is an untidy cup made of sticks, twigs and lined with grasses, rootlets and other soft fibres. It is placed in the fork of a shrubby tree within 10 m of the ground. Three to five eggs are laid and incubated by the female. Young birds are fed by both parents. The young birds will remain in the breeding territory for about a year, and help the parents raise the young of the following season.


The call is a rich, melodius piping, often sung as a duet. The call carries a considerable distance.  (Audio recordings courtesy of David Stewart/Nature Sound)
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania


Grey Butcherbirds range from mid-eastern Queensland, through southern Australia to northern Western Australia. There is an isolated population in the Kimberley and the northernmost parts of the Northern Territory.

In Tasmania, the species is a common resident across most of the State except the far west.