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Brown-backed Whistler - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Xenospiza
Kumul Lodge, Enga, Papua New Guinea, July 2006

Alternative name: Grey Mountain Pachycephala

Pachycephala modesta



  • Dark grey crown
  • Grey upper side of face to below orbit
  • Brown ear-coverts
  • Sooty brown upperparts with olive wash
  • White throat and underparts
  • Tinged grey flanks and breast
  • Dark brown or red-brown iris
  • Black bill and legs

Sexes alike. Juveniles are chestnut-brown to dark red-brown mottled


Endemic to Papua New Guinea.
Locally fairly common.


There are 3 subspecies:

  • P. m. telefolminensis in the Victor Emanuel Mountains and Hindenburg Mountains
  • P. m. hypoleuca in the mountains of Western, Southern and Eastern Highlands and Huon Peninsula
  • P. m. modesta in the Herzog Mountains and mountains of southeast New Guinea


Moist montanes, sometimes small trees in alpine grassland. Found mainly from 1830m to the timber-line (around 3450m).


Feeds on insects, sometimes fruits.
Forages in the canopy and middle storey.
Breeding probably in the latter part of the dry season and early in the wet season. No more information.
Probably a sedentary species.


  1. Clements, JF. 2008. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2008. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019.
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2007. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553422

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