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Grey Whistler - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Brown Whistler; Brown Thickhead (simplex); York Thickhead (peninsulae)

Nominate subspecies
Photo by tcollins
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, September 2009
Pachycephala simplex

Includes Grey-headed Whistler


14 - 15cm
P. s. simplex:

  • Grey-brown upperparts, pale buff eyebrow, pale grey-buff band across faintly streaked upper breast, white to buff-white underparts

P. s. peninsulae:

  • Grey head, an olive back, olive-buff upper breast merging with pale yellow lower breast

New Guinea subspecies:

  • Grey head, olive-green upperparts and tail, white chin and throat, grey streaked in some subspecies (eg sudestensis), pale yellow underparts, some subspecies with a darker (olive-buff to brownish) upperbreast

Sexes alike. Juveniles have rufous-brown upperparts.

Race jobiensis
Photo by mehdhalaouate
Taja, West Papua, September 2006


Northern Australia and New Guinea.


The New Guinea and other island subspecies are split by some authorities as "Grey-headed Whistler", P. griseiceps.


Clements recognises the following subspecies [1]:

  • P. g. rufipennis: Kai Islands (Kai Kecil and Kai Besar)
  • P. g. miosnomensis: Meos Num Island (New Guinea)
  • P. g. griseiceps: New Guinea: northwestern Islands, Aru Islands, Bird's Head and Bird's Neck to southern lowlands, Trans-Fly, and southern Southeastern Peninsula east to Port Moresby
  • P. g. jobiensis: Northern New Guinea and Yapen Island
  • P. g. brunnescens: South-eastern New Guinea and D'Entrecasteaux Archipelago
  • P. g. sudestensis: Tagula Island (Louisiade Archipelago)
  • P. g. peninsulae: North-eastern Queensland south to Rockingham Bay; Hinchinbrook Island
  • P. s. simplex: Northern part of Northern Territory, Australia


Rainforest, monsoon forest, mangroves and tall secondary growth. Occurs from sea-level to 1400 m in New Guinea.



Feeds mainly on insects but takes also spiders and some seeds.
Forages in the middle and upper storey of the forest.


Breeding season from December to March for simplex and October to January for peninsulae. In New Guinea, breeding recorded at the end of the wet season and beginning of dry season. The nest is a cup made of grass, leaves, rootlets, twigs and plant fibre. It's placed in a tree fork some 6 - 15m above the ground. Lays 2 eggs.


Resident species.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Simpson, K and N Day. 1998. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. London: Christopher Helm. ISBN 0-7136-4877-5
  3. 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

Recommended Citation

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