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Black Butcherbird - BirdForum Opus

Photo by tcollins
Darwin Northern Territory, Australia, June 2006

Alternative names: Spalding Butcherbird; Rufous Butcherbird; Brown Butcherbird; Quoy Butcherbird; Black Crow-Shrike; Rufous Crow-Shrike

Cracticus quoyi


33 - 44cm. A large, all-dark butcherbird with a massive-hook-tipped bill:

  • Black plumage, brighter glossy blue-back on back
  • Long tail, rounded in flight but appears squart-tipped when resting
  • Brown eye
  • Blue-grey or milky blue bill, distal third black
  • Dark grey or black legs

Sexes similar.
Juveniles have dull black or brownish-black underparts, a yellowish-brown iris, a pale grey bill and dark grey legs. Juveniles and immatures of rufescens occur in two morphs, the normal black one and a rufous one. This rufous morph is not found in any other subspecies.


Immature rufous morph, subspecies rufescens
Photo by butcherbird
Conway National Park, Proserpine region, Queensland

Found in New Guinea and adjacent Papuan Islands and northern Australia.
Common and widespread in its range.


Placed in genus Melloria by Gill and Donsker.


There are 5 subspecies:

  • C. q. quoyi:
  • C. q. spaldingi:
  • Aru Islands; Western Australia to Arnhem Land and adjacent islands
  • C. q. alecto:
  • Islands of North Torres Strait (Boigu and Saibai)
  • C. q. jardini
  • Coasts of western and eastern Cape York Peninsula south to Cooktown
  • C. q. rufescens:


Mainly mangrove forest in Australia, most forest types and plantations in New Guinea. From the lowlands up to 1300m.


Photo by tcollins
Darwin, January 2007

A sedentary species.


Feeds mainly on insects but takes also small vertebrates like small lizards, small snakes, frogs, small mammals, birds and their nestlings, small crab and fish. Forages mostly in the lower canopy and sub-canopy, sometimes on the ground, also searching litter. Large prey items are wedged into a crack or fork or impaled on a spike and then dismembered.


Little known about breeding. Laying mainly from September to October in New Guinea, October to November in Australia. The nest is an untidy bowl made of sticks and twigs, placed 5 - 15m above the ground in a tree fork. Lays 2 - 4 eggs. In Northeast Australia Trumpet Manucode breeds often near this species, obviously benefiting from its aggressive nest defence.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2016. IOC World Bird Names (version 6.4). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  3. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  4. Avibase
  5. BF Member observations

Recommended Citation

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