Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Coracina tenuirostris
(Viewing 4 of 4 photos)

Click to listen to sound samples Before 1926, Cicadabirds were known as White-shouldered Caterpillar-eater - that certainly was a mouthful. In Australia, two subspecies are currently recognised, one across the north from the Kimberleys to Cape York which is generally regarded as being resident, and a second down the east coast almost to Melbourne which is strongly migratory. These two subspecies appear to have different songs (listen on song page). Outside of Australia there are a number of very similar looking species/subspecies throughout New Guinea, Timor and the islands whose status is uncertain, confounded by the fact that the east coast Australian one migrates to New Guinea and perhaps beyond in winter.

Most people have never seen a Cicadabird and even many of those who have heard one have never actually seen one. The reason for this is that the calls (of the eastern subspecies at least) carry for nearly a kilometre, from the tops of the trees where these birds spend much of their time - they are fairly shy so difficult to approach and also difficult to observe from below. They build one of the smallest nests in Australia, in horizontal fork up to 20 metres or so from the ground and they lay only one egg.

Eastern Australian birds arrive in mid to late September, the males usually a fortnight before the females, and depart in March. They are largely insectivorous, taken by pouncing but occasionally by hovering. Cicadas do form part of their food.

Photo: 429201-D

429201-D ... Cicadabird, male collecting lichen for nest material.

Photo: 429202-D


Photo: 429203-D

429203-D ... Probable immature. Pointed tail feathers and lack of barring on centre of belly- giving the cicada-like call of a male.

Photo: 429204-D


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