It Ain’t Black and White with this Buddy
Grey Butcherbirds,much like Ravens, are meat-loving birds that aren’t afraid to come near to our homes and gardens. In fact, our backyards are often a treasure trove for these buddies that eat insects, beetles, caterpillars, mice, lizards, skinks and other small buddies.
Avoid using pesticides or chemicals in your garden, as you could unwittingly poison a helpful predator like the Grey Butcherbird.
If this sound is familiar to you, then you've been listening to the concerts of one of Australia's finest singers - the Grey Butcherbird.
Buddies like the Grey Butcherbird are also attracted to our streets, because they can scavenge on road kill. This may not sound too appealing, but it’s actually a useful job the Grey Butcherbird performs for us. It helps keep our environment clean and healthy by recycling nutrients back into the soil.
To attract birds to your garden install a bird bath or put out containers of clean, fresh water each day. Many different kinds of birds will drink from them or take a dip on a hot day. You will soon discover that most birds enjoy a chance to wet their feathers and fluff themselves up afterwards. This is their version of a morning shower.
You may be cheering the Grey Butcherbirds around your area now, but they do have a dark side. Many small birds tremble in fear when they hear the beautiful, rollicking call of this bird, which it often performs in a duet. That’s because small birds, their chicks and eggs are also on the menu of the Grey Butcherbird.
Butcherbirds get their name from their gruesome way of feeding. The Grey Butcherbird’s mean-looking hooked beak gives you a clue. When they catch prey, they hang it off a branch or tree fork, and hack the meat away, just like a butcher. It also hangs uneaten food in the fork of a branch or impaled on a twig (their ‘larder’) and comes back to eat the leftovers later.
Grey Butcherbirds have very small, short legs and feet, so they often perch on a branch and watch out below. When they see something, they pounce quickly on it, or can even catch prey in mid-air.
Grey Butcherbirds love to eat meat such as lizards, mice, beetles, insects, chicks and small birds, and other small buddies.
Grey Butcherbirds will also occasionally eat fruit and seeds, which you may see them hunting for in your garden.
Spring is a good time to see a Grey Butcherbird with its chicks. These birds breed from July to January each year. The females lay three to five eggs in
a nest up to 10 metres high off the ground. Mum will incubate her eggs for about 25 days, and then dad will help her feed the chicks. Watch and listen
out for nests near you, and you may just get to observe a Grey
Butcherbird family drama unfolding right before your eyes.
In some Grey Butcherbird families, the chicks will take a leaf out of the Kookaburra’s book and hang around for a year after they have fledged to help mum and dad raise the next set of chicks.
It really is a treat to hear Grey Butcherbirds calling, and they have a wide variety of rich, melodious calls. Take the time to listen out for them, and ensure that they continue singing for a long time to come by keeping your cat indoors, or by installing a cat run or cat enclosure so that your cat can go outside without attacking any buddies. Cats are natural hunters and will attack for fun, even if they aren’t hungry.
DID YOU KNOW?
Grey Butcherbirds have almost frontal vision, much like a raptor. This kind of vision helps them find their prey. Look out for them perching above areas you have just dug up in the garden, looking for grubs or other unearthed bugs.