Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Golden Whistler
Pachycephala pectoralis
(Viewing 4 of 20 photos)

Click to listen to sound samples Adult male Golden Whistlers are certainly the most attractive of all eight species of whistler to occur in Australia. Females and immatures are a different matter - they are amongst the plainest brown and unmarked birds we have; they are also widespread and common and so often the main causes of the question " What bird is that?"

Golden Whistlers occur throughout eastern and southern Australia and Tasmania, principally in wetter forest, including rainforest, with fewer numbers extending inland to dryer woodlands and mallee. In Western Australia they extend northwards to Shark Bay and in eastern Australia as far as Cairns and Atherton. There are seven subspecies recognised in our region: distinctively different are the males from Norfolk Island which aren't yellow but resemble mainland females , and Tasmanian males which are lemon yellow in colour and have very small bills (pic 398204D). Yellow undertail coverts are a generally accepted good fieldmark (pic 398214) for most females but not all; in subspecies "youngi" (inland south-eastern Aust.) and "glaucura" (Tasmania) the crissum is white. The distinctive rufous plumage of fledglings confuses a lot of people (pic 398203) ; it is rarely seen because fledglings undergo moult into a female-like plumage soon after leaving the nest.

Golden Whistlers are superb songsters with a wide repertoire - a few samples are presented on the sound page.

Recent research has suggested that Golden Whistlers from Western Australia are in fact a separate species which has been named Western Whistler, Pachycephala occidentalis. They range from south-western Australia to just over the border south of the Nullarbor into South Australia. Males are a more lemon-yellow on the breast and females a bit paler on the breast than birds from further east in South Australia (subspecies fuliginosa) but the differences are slight. For a detailed presentation of all this refer to

Photo: 398201

398201 ... Golden Whistler, adult male, McPherson Range, southern Queensland.

Photo: 398202

398202 ... Immature. Resembles the adult female but has buff edges to secondary wing feathers.

Photo: 398203

398203 ... Fledgling - this plumage is only retained for a short time before moulting into a grey plumage resembling the female.

Photo: 398204-D

398204-D ... Tasmanian Golden Whistlers are lemon yellow and have shorter bills.

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