Ian’s Bird Of The Week – White-bellied Cuckooshrike ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 3/27/11
Not only colourful birds are beautiful. Take, for example, the monochrome Cuckooshrikes, such as the White-bellied. ‘Dapper’ comes to mind, though my dictionary defines it as meaning ‘up-to-date in dress and manners, and there is something timeless about the beauty of birds. I find the soft greys of Cuckooshrikes quite lovely and the contrasting white and black touches make them completely ready for the most formal occasion.
The best known Cuckooshrike in Australia is the very widespread Black-faced, but in North Queensland the smaller White-bellied is usually much commoner, though the migrant Black-faced can be numerous in the (winter) dry season. The first photo shows an adult of the eastern Australian race robusta perched in a red-flowering Poinsiana near my house. The second photo is of a juvenile bird, also in my garden, with the characteristic faintly barred breast and dark smudge behind the eye.
The third photo shows the paler, white-breasted, northern race hypoleuca, found in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia. It merely looks like it’s got a broken wing: it’s actually in the middle of the wing shuffle performed both by this species and the Black-faced after landing and, apparently, during display. The shuffle is done very deliberately and the birds look as if they are having trouble folding their wings comfortably. The Black-faced is sometimes called the ‘Shufflewing’, arguably a much better name than ‘cuckooshrike’ as they are not related to either cuckoos or shrikes and shrikes are meaninglessly unknown in Australia, except as rare vagrants.
Interestingly, the White-bellied seems to have some black-faced genes lurking in its genome, as there is an uncommon dark morph of the race robusta, fourth photo, which could easily be confused with the larger Black-faced Cuckooshrike, though the dark morph of the White-bellied has black scallops between the breast and the belly. The species are distinguishable by call. Both are quite vocal, with the Black-faced having a musical ‘chereer’ while the White-bellied is a peevish ‘kissik’: if it sounds as if it’s complaining, it’s a White-bellied.
Thanks, Ian, for introducing us to another interesting bird. The Cuckoo is a Bird of the Bible, but I am not sure if the Cuckooshrike comes under that “kind” or not. The KJV spells it, “cuckow” and the MKJV “cuckoo.”
and the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckoo, and the hawk after its kind, (Deuteronomy 14:15 MKJV)
The Cuckooshrikes are in the Campephagidae – Cuckooshrikes Family of the Passeriformes Order, whereas the Cuckoo is in the Cuculidae – Cuckoos Family of the Cuculiformes Order. So, I suspect that since they are two different Orders that they are totally different “kinds.”
Cuckoo is used with several other bird families:
Cuckoo-Hawks – Accipitridae Family
Cuckoo-Doves – Columbidae Family
Cuckoo Roller – Leptosomidae Family
Cuckoo Weaver – Viduidae Family
And some of you only thought the Cuckoo lived in a clock!