Backyard Buddies
Golden Whistler

Photo: CSIRO

Golden Whistler

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The Golden Whistler is an insect eating bird and the male is not easily confused for another species with its bright yellow colouring. The female, however, is mostly grey but still a very pretty little bird.

During spring, the male Golden Whistler song can be heard frequently. The males sing so beautifully and so loudly to court and impress their potential mate and also to deter other male Golden Whistlers away from their territory. They will also start singing when they hear loud noises, such as thunder, to try and compete with the sounds.

The Golden Whistler has several different songs. One of their common calls sounds like 'we-we-we-tu-whit'.

October is a great time to hear and see these whistling buddies. During winter the males are relatively quiet but when spring and their breeding season starts, they burst into song.

The male and female Golden Whistlers look very different. The male has a bright yellow belly that makes him easy to spot, and a black and white head. Their colours and markings are mainly used as territorial displays to other males.

The female is a pale brown colour making her very well camouflaged in the trees. Golden Whistlers usually feed and live alone but in spring you will have a better chance of spotting the two of them together as they start their families.

Both parents take turns to build the soft, cup-shaped little nest for their babies. The female will then lay two to three eggs which she and the male will take turns to incubate.

The male does most of his insect foraging high up in the tree canopy whereas female Golden Whistlers will forage in the understorey and look for insects hiding behind the bark and on the ground. Leaving bark mulch and leaf litter on your garden beds will encourage small birds and other buddies like Blue-tongue Lizards to visit in search of a meal.

The Golden Whistler's favourite foods are insects and spiders but they are also partial to the odd juicy berry.

When you spot this buddy, you'll notice how fidgety they can be. They are constantly turning their head and hopping from branch to branch in search of hidden insects. This can make them easy to spot especially when you see a bright flash of yellow from their feathers, but it can make them very tricky to photograph.


Golden Whistlers love to hang out in leafy trees with plenty of hiding places from predators. If you want to encourage them into your garden, try to plant a variety of native plants that can create a canopy and an understory in your garden.


Several close relatives of the Golden Whistler in Papua New Guinea are actually poisonous. Their skin and feathers are covered in a neurotoxin that makes your lips and skin become numb if they come into contact with them. It is believed this is a result of their diet which includes a poisonous beetle.

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