Grey Shrike-Thrush

Grey Shrike-Thrush

Grey Shrike-Thrush

The Grey Shrike-Thrush is a resident breeding bird species in our garden here in Murray Bridge, South Australia. We really enjoy its beautiful call with its rich tones and far carrying sound. This species is known for its call, but the pair resident in out garden is not all that vocal, even when breeding. In fact, during nesting they are almost silent around here, which tends to be the opposite in many other places.

The Grey Shrike-Thrush is a common and widespread species of bird found throughout most of Australia. There is some plumage variation from one location to another. In northern Australia there are three other Shrike-Thrush species, all of which are still on my “yet to see” list.

Despite this being a resident species in our garden, it has taken me until a few days ago to get a reasonable series of photos.

Grey Shrike-Thrush

Grey Shrike-Thrush

 

48 Responses to “Grey Shrike-Thrush”

  1. Duncan says:

    Love the call of thrush, they can mimic too, heard one up at Hattah finishing its song with a perfect rendition of the Crested Bellbird call.

  2. Trevor says:

    The call of the Grey Shrike Thrush is amazingly rich and melodious. It is one bird call that I can made a very good imitation of – and I get some interesting replies from our local birds!

    I wasn’t aware of their ability to mimic other birds.

  3. Noel says:

    we have a pair nesting in a pot plant on the wall of our lounge in Brisbane four eggs were laid on a once a day basis and so far two are hatched and are being fed by parents we notice in the feeding process the feeding birds swallow a white sack removed from the nest or hatchlings we have some photographs but I am not a very good photogrpher lots of calling accompanies the change overs when the birds are feeding we did see them build the nest and I have some reasonable photos of the 4 eggs inthe nest first two out third out not too sure what happened to the Fourth egg two of the hatchlings pop their heads up from time to time

  4. Trevor says:

    Hi there Noel – welcome to my blog about birds. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. your observation of the white sack is quite interesting. This is actually a faecal sac (the poo of the babies) which the adult birds usually remove after feeding the young. On rare occasions they are known to swallow this sac.

    Enjoy watching your new family.

  5. Noel says:

    thanks for the info onthe white sacs what we observed was the sacs swallowed by the feeding bird on almost all occasions they are mainly feeding what looks like a black beetle on one occasion a grasshopper on most occasions small lizards time qway from the nest varies from a few minutes to over 45 minutes there is some late feeding before sunset with periods of inactivity mid day back again later

  6. Malcolm says:

    We live on 10 hectares near Windsor, NSW. Some 10 years ago we commenced building a house, and a pair of thrushes built a nest in the rafters, laid a pair of eggs and hatched two young birds, Next year, a pair (the same?) built a nest, and we had to delay closing the eaves until they left. Next year, it was in a milk-crate on the verandah. Next, we moved the milk-crat, filled with wood off-cuts and scraps of material to a bar-chair next to our front door. The birds have just fare-welled their last hatching about the end of September. Three eggs were laid, of which two hatched successfully, the other apparently sterile. One (the male?) subsequently picked this up and flew off with it – we don’t know where.
    Now, two weeks later, another(?) pair seem to be renovating the nest for another clutch. Do pairs lay twice in a season, or is there an extended period and these are a new pair? We also have a different pair breeding in our garage, starting some 3 weeks after our first pair for this year.
    I agree with the comments – their song is delightful, and consists of quite a number of different tunes we can identify – where the female calls the male to relieve her on the eggs, for instance.

  7. Trevor says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog Malcolm.

    Many Australian birds are known to have multiple clutches of eggs in one breeding season. Some species can breed up to 5 times if the conditions are right. From 1-3 clutches is quite normal.

    Grey Shrike-thrushes are very cosmopolitan in their choice of a site for a nest too. They will use all sorts of natural structures as well as many artificial sites like buildings, built structures and so on. HANZAB records one nest inside a bucket hanging on its side in a tree. Another nest record states that the same nest site on a concrete support under a bridge was used 15 times in 8 years. It didn’t state whether it was the same pair each time. They will reuse or refurbish the nests of other species too. They seem to be very adaptable.

    Reference: HANZAB: Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds Volume 6.

  8. Noel Edwards says:

    The Shrikes came back to the same nest around the16Th of September
    and followed the same pattern of going away with one calling and coming back to change shift by or on the 22Nd Sept 1 egg 23Rd 2 egg 24Th sept 3 egg we continued to watch the pair exchange places .we were away for two weeks from the 6Th of October
    when we arrived home the nest was empty with all eggs gone we can’t tthink they hatched not sure since then we have heard a few calls but no returns to the nest photo of the nest onthe11Th of October shows a n empty clean nest we are still waiting Noel and Conny

  9. Trevor says:

    Hi there Noel,

    There are two possibilities for what has happened:

    1. The eggs have hatched and the young have flown off. The eggs take about 17 days to hatch and the nestlings leave the nest (fledge) after about another 17 days.

    2. A predator has eaten the nestlings. Predators include magpies, currawongs, crows, ravens, butcherbirds, cats, snakes and even lizards. The death rate with baby birds is very high. Most species compensate for this by having multiple broods – up to 5 – in the one season. With the Grey Shrike Thrush they can breed from July to Feb if the conditions are right (eg enough food).

  10. Vicki says:

    Hi
    We had a pair nesting in my horse gear shed in an upturned helmet hanging on the wall. They raised several young but unfortunately one got caught in the nesting material. We found it hanging upside down from the nest dead unfortunately. Another left the nest successfully but landed in a tray of water that one of my pot-plants stand in. It was unable to get out for some reason and once again we found it to late, still alive but it died shortly thereafter. We were quite upset, then another one made a mad dash into our dining room door and killed itself. We were really upset now. Have tipped out water from dish and covered the doorway so here’s hoping the next lot are more successful. They make quite a variety of calls here. We just love them.
    Cheers Vicki

  11. Trevor says:

    Hi there Vicki,

    Thanks for stopping by and for leaving your comments.

    Your experiences are sad indeed. What most people don’t realise – unless they think about it – is that the attrition rate for young birds is very high. For this reason, many species breed 2-4 times every season, each time laying 2-5 eggs. This is in the hope that several will survive to reach maturity.

    For example, there have been studies of magpies showing that about 75% of young magpies die in their first year. If a magpie survives the first year, it is likely to live 5-15 years and some up to 20 years.

    While this a very sad statistic from a human point of view, it is the harsh reality of survival in the wild. I don’t get all that upset with predators taking eggs or young because it helps them to survive. What really saddens me is road kill and accidents like flying into glass windows.

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. megan walker says:

    Hi
    I am really interested in all the comments about this beautiful bird. We live on acreage in Duckmaloi, NSW and are in the process of buiding a house. Over the winter we did very little due to the weather and sometime in early September started hearing their distinctive song. We have been here in a shed here for 4 years and this was our first sighting. Subsequently they have built a nest inside the internal metal rafters in a corner of our new house and have hatched some young around the 15th October. Unfortunately over the next 3 weeks gyprocking etc will be done. If we cordon off that area and ask the builders to work on it last- will the chicks have fledged? Also concerned if they will be disturbed by the building process- even though they seem oK so far. Any suggestions. Reading other peoples stories about return nesting is great. Maybe we will hang something up for them. Our shed rafters have been home to 4 years worth of swallow chicks and the parents provide us with some great antics when teaching their chicks to fly.

  13. James says:

    We have at least 2 pairs of these birds in our garden. They have beautiful song but they are also very annoying as they constantly pick at every glass and mirror on our house and cars and make a dreadful mess. Our cars and house window sills are constantly covered in droppings. However they can also be very secretive at times as we have just discovered a nest with three small chicks in a hanging pot plant only meters from our back door.The nesting and hatching has successfully occurred despite regular watering of the potplant.

  14. Robyn says:

    Is this the bird the Tasmanians call the ‘Joe Wicky’?

  15. Trevor says:

    Hi Robyn,

    Yes.

    I’ve never heard that name before – not having lived in Tasmania – but a quick search of my reference books and sure enough – there it was.

    What an interesting name!

  16. Gordon says:

    Hi
    I’m on acreage in northeastern Victoria and have a shrikethrush sitting on three eggs in my letter box (actually a large plastic tub on its side, so there’s plnety of room, and I have successfully trained the mail person not to cover the nest with correpondence). But how long do they nornally take to hatch their eggs? Seems she’s been the a while…

    Thanks

  17. Trevor says:

    Hi Gordon,

    Thanks for your comments and question.

    The eggs take about 17 – 20 days to hatch and the chicks normally leave the nest after another 17 or so days.

  18. Gordon Kerry says:

    Thanks, Trevor and happy new year.
    2 of the 3 eggs hatched about, but less than, 2 weeks ago. This morning I went to see how they were getting on and the parent and chicks have gone, leaving an unhatched egg and a seemingly undisturbed nest. I guess it’s possible a rat or fox has been able to climb up into the mailbox, but hope not, as I’d begun to get friendly with them.

  19. Trevor says:

    Thanks Gordon. It is entirely possible that the young have fledged and flown off. They grow very quickly in the nest and fly after about 17 – 20 days.

    I certainly hope that a fox or rat hasn’t been the culprit. Both species can be very cunning and inventive getting to a feed. The fact that the nest was undisturbed indicates to me that they have flown. Keep watching – there is still enough time this season for them to breed again. Many of our smaller bird species breed 2 – 4 times in a season.

  20. Trevor says:

    Hi there James,

    I’m sorry – I neglected to respond to your comments on the Grey Shrike-thrush – I was very busy finishing off my degree.

    Some birds from a range of species are notorious for making a mess on windows and car mirrors. They see their own reflection and, thinking it is an intruder on their territory, try to chase it away. Wrens, Willie Wagtails, Magpie Larks and others do this too.

    There is no one effective way of solving the problem with windows – perhaps draping shade-cloth over the may help until the nesting is over. Car mirrors could be protected by covering them with a bag or a cloth while they are parked so that there is no reflection.

  21. Helene O'Shaughnessy says:

    Hi there,
    We have a pair of Shrike Thrushes who nested and hatched three babies in an empty plant pot on our verandah recently. The house is down a steep drive surrounded by woodland on three acres in the Southern Tablelands of NSW and we are not always there. We only noticed the nest after a fortnight away.
    I have a (digital camera) video of the family, and of the adult female, (I think predominantly light grey all over) feeding the infant then being presented with the white sac directly from one infant that she ate. I have also seen the male take the sac and fly off with it – maybe depositing it elsewhere? They are a constant delight but I am concerned about the infants as there are several days of hot weather coming up. They give us a really ealy wake up call.
    Cheers,
    Helene

  22. Helene O'Shaughnessy says:

    Hi Again, Trevor. The three chicks successfully took their first flight and I managed to get it on video if you are interested.

  23. Frosty says:

    “Me Happy Shrikey Mate”
    G’day Trevor,.,A really gregarious Grey Shrike-Thrush is a favourite friendly visitor to my verandah bird bath. He adopted me about a year ago and I adore him.He is mega fun to have around. He just showed up and acted as though we’d been mates for years.
    Shrikey is completely free to come and go. Shrikey’s a triffik little bloke with a heap ov ticker and plenty of inquisitiveness.
    I dig the way he cocks he head to ascertain his next move.
    Shrikey even flies into the lounge and jumps and hops all over me waiting for a feed. Although he has become very trusting of me I can’t get him to sit still on my arm or hand or get him to perch. That’s unlike the Aussie King Parrots who visit me and perch on my shoulders and squabble over who sits on me to rule the roost.
    Shrikey has a taste for a wide variety of things. I hand feed him duck meat (because they are a pest and devastate the place because other people feed them buckets of bread), many types of other meat, maggots, flies, beetles, moths, or nearly any insect that I can catch and offer him. He also likes to eat crushed up peanuts and occasionally some of the wild bird seed I give to other birds.
    But easily his favourite nosh are the live curl grubs that I dig up from around the vegie garden. I have to be extremely careful if he is around while I am digging because he darts right in amongst the spade as I dig about looking for bird tucker.
    Compared to his normal eating style I can see his elevated excitement when I offer him the largest of the grubs that are index finger or thumb size.
    🙂 Crikey Shrikey,.,they’re nearly as big as yer head! 😀
    I know he can tell if there is one hidden in the dirt containers where I keep them because he will simply refuse anything else and hop away until I start to muck about with the container. Then he gets extra fidgety. He must be able to hear or somehow notice the grubs vibrations under dirt or leaf litter.
    I have to watchout if I let him have a large curly while sitting on my lounge room recliner because he will thrash it to death next to me and fling grub guts all over me,.,nice one Shrikey!.
    One day he jumps past me at the door and ignores the maggots and little curl grubs I was offering him. He usally goes berko for em. Anyow, he flies into me kitchen, up to the top of the window and snaffles up my pet Huntsmen spider. Shrikey brought it to me feet and promptly bashed it to death and swallowed it before I could save it.
    I’d been feeding this beautiful big female spider for a year since it was a baby. I used to have mega fun with Spidergirl by playing tug of war with her by letting her latch on to grasshoppers. It astonished me the strength I could feel in her tugging power as we went at it before I would let her win.
    It’s natures way,.,RIP Spidergirl.
    Unfortunately, Shrikey must be one of these non vocal ones because he has very rarely sings around me.
    He disappeared from around end of October 2010 until mid February 2011. Before he took off I had caught and turned some feral cats into small beaky sized meaty bites and also got some juicy maggots from them to feed Shrikey and some Magpies, Pee-Wees, and good old bucket beak Kookies. At first I thought one of the dead ferals ravenous mates had got revenge on him. Obviously not, and he went off to sow some oats and hopefully he might bring his family to visit me. 😉

  24. Ute says:

    We have only recently found two of these birds started living in our garden. We’ve been here 4 years, and never heard them before. Love their song.
    It has driven me crazy trying to figure out what they were, but persistence has paid off, and I found your blog!

    We are having the same problem as James, with them attacking the mirrors and windows on the two cars in our carport.

  25. Frosty says:

    G’day Trevor,my other comment ended up a bit long in the tooth. Because I love little Shrikey big heaps. Any how here’s a few of some videos of me being silly with this fantastic little Grey Shrike-Thrush. He visits me many times a day and it literally helps me wanna live. Him and the other bird visitors take my mind off of my chronic pains.
    If these links don’t work just look up frozzytoobz on youtube and scroll around for Shrikey in the titles.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kwa4QuS4o_Q
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzHflBf_BMU

  26. Lee says:

    Hi Trevor,..it’s wonderful reading about everyones stories about their Grey Shrike Thrush.I just love them and have had the same female nesting on the window sill on my verandah for over 10 years!…she uses the same nest, just does a few running repairs and she is so friendly and trusting of me.I live in the bush in north east Victoria and have heaps of gorgeous birds but Shrikey is my fave…..Anyway after my husband died of cancer(very young)…Shrikey disappeared which I was oh so sad about and I really missed her….then about a year and a half later a Grey Shrike Thrush flew onto the verandah and sat on the table like Old Shrikey used to!……at first I thought it could not be the same one, even though it looked very similar with fine grey whiskers around her beak just like old Shrikey……anyway to cut a long story short, It is Old Shrikey, she ate from my hand straight away and still lands on my hand in mid air, just like she used to and has also gone back to her old nest on the window sill which has remained there since she first built it, well over 10 years ago. I am so happy to have her back and she sits on the table, or the top of the chair every morning, waiting for me to give her some bread crumbs, and at dusk she does the same and we chat and say goodnight!She is also very clever, with some of the funny things she does, but I’ll leave that for another time. She is part of the family and so very special…..cheers, here’s to all the beautiful “Shrikey’s” out there…xxx

  27. Deb says:

    Hi Trevor,

    We are in Agnes Water QLD and have been lucky enough to have a pair of these birds nest in a black plastic pot on a shelf. They have 3 eggs and fly in and out all day. It has been about 16 days since we first spotted the nest so are patiently waiting for the babies to appear. Thankyou for the blog it has been very informative

  28. geoff says:

    Does anybody have any idea why the beautiful grey shrike thrush is sometimes referred to as “Duke Wellington”?

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Geoff, I just consulted “Australian Bird Names: a complete guide” (Fraser and Gray) and although they mention the “Duke Wellington” name for this species, they do not give any reason for this odd name for such a beautiful songster, except to say that every alternative name refers to the song of the bird.

  29. lai says:

    hi,
    has anybody ever heard the bird mimic a sacred kingfisher (without any other tones with it)?
    we saw @ terrick terrick np’ a bird about the size n jizz of say, grey shrike thrush, perched very high up on a dead tree, very erect
    n calling like a sacred kingfisher, “dek, dek, dek”, just as loud;
    it was too high up to get a really good look at it’s upperpart;
    but otherwise, it’s as plain as the grey shrike thrush, bill n all;
    unfortunately, we don’t have a camera.
    it looks very much to me like a grey shrike thrush mimicking the sacred kingfisher?
    – lai

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Lai,
      Sorry about the long delay in replying. I had hoped that someone else might have something to say.
      I have searched through several field guides without success. In HANZAB however, the authors quote several sources claiming that the Grey Shrike-thrush has been observed mimicking the calls of the following species: Golden Whistler, Pied Currawong, a robin species, the alarm call of the Noisy Miner and a possum. So it is quite likely that some individuals are able to mimic the call of a Sacred Kingfisher.
      Furthermore, despite the two species being almost identical in size – the kingfisher is slightly smaller – your comment regarding the bill is diagnostic; the bill of the kingfisher is very prominent and quite unlike the Grey Shrike-thrush.
      HANZAB: Handbook of Australian New Zealand and Antarctic birds volume 6.

      • lai says:

        hi trevor

        thanks for your effort. you are right, the bill is not of the kingfisher n you would recognise the kingfisher’s plumage. I’ve id it to a white winged triller that’s in eclipse. according to pizzey’s guide they do breed in eclipse n his example of one of it’s call is not unsimilar to that of the sacred kf. but what we heard was of a slightly higher frequency, like that of what a wwt would make. it wasn’t the usual familiar call of the wwt but I am pretty sure that’s the bird we saw. from below n at that distane it’s plumage was plain like that of gst.

  30. Vanessa says:

    Hi,
    My husband and I have only become acquainted with these lovely little birds in the last 2 years. This was a direct result of a pair nesting in a little metal toolbox on a ledge in our car shed. We loved hearing them call which they did a lot. Since the sound was amplified when they called from inside the shed, I commented to my husband, “they seem to like the sound of their own voice. I wonder what sort of birds they are? With me being fond of a chat, the reply was, “they’re probably Vanessa birds”. Even though we now know what they really are, we only refer to them as Vanessa birds, as do our neighbours. They are nesting in the same little toolbox right now for the third time.(second time this season). The second of 2 eggs hatched this morning. Love these plucky little birds and their gorgeous calls. Have to admit, we spoil them. When they are nesting, we leave the car out of the shed to give them space and minimise intrusion. Also been known to use pedestal fan on really hot days (of which there have been a lot lately). It’s quite a distance from nest, but helps to move a little air in their direction.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Vanessa,

      Thank you for sharing your story with my readers. You certainly do spoil them, but then, they reward you with their beautiful song. (From a scientific point of view, they are not singing for your delight and admiration, but rather they are probably singing to maintain their territory – they are actually “yelling” at the neighbours to get lost, or worse.)
      As for providing a fan on hot days… well, what can I say? Spoilt birds indeed. Keep up the good work! And keep on enjoying them, and other birds in your garden.
      Oh, don’t forget to provide water in bird baths during hot weather. They will love you – and so will many other birds.

      • Vanessa says:

        A somewhat sad update on”our” nesting pair. On night of Sunday 7th, I was just finishing hanging Christmas lights on exterior of house, when I heard much commotion coming from the shed. Mother bird was making quite a fuss. Knowing something was up, I ran into the shed in time to see a brown tree snake at the nest. I raced for hubby to come to the rescue. He did and removed snake from the nest but it was too late for one little bird. Snake hadn’t got to eat the chick, but had obviously bitten it and killed it. In the chaos, mother flew away leaving the other surviving chick alone. We stressed that the chick might die from exposure as it only just had pin feathers. What a sleepless night followed.Fortunately, it was a very warm night. To cut a long story short and spare you the details of how I kept chick at least a bit warmer, at 4.15a.m the following morn,I fearfully went to shed, but to my relief, mother had returned. I was delighted to see the sole surviving chick pop it’s head up. Nearly a week later, “our” chick is thriving. Mum and Dad are quite relaxed with us being in the shed,look quizzically at us and even accept a few little bits of mince rolled in insectivore mix. I know we shouldn’t feed wild birds, (or prevent snakes from taking chicks for that matter), but these little birds bring such pleasure and we only offer a little food while they are busy with the chicks. I’ve been told that the chicks don’t need external warming once they have pin feathers. Is this true? Thanks for your reply to my first comment. Love reading everyone else’s comments also. P.s We have put out water for the birds. We live near Gin Gin, Qld and the last week has been very hot and humid.

  31. Dear Trevor,
    I live in Brisbane south and there is a couple of Grey Shrike Thrush that have been ruining my life for 5 weeks now. They “shriek” all day long starting from 4:45am (outside the bedroom window). and carry on till dusk. Our neighbours have tinted windows and they are very attracted to them. is there a nice way to send them on their way? kindest regards Candice.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Candice,

      Some birds can be very annoying, especially when they constantly call in response to their own reflection in a mirror or window. The only solution I can think of is to ask the neighbours if they (or you?) could temporarily cover the offending windows with some shade-cloth to prevent any reflection occurring. Once the breeding season is over, life will hopefully return to normal.

  32. Alexia Kirshfield says:

    How long do these birds live?

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Alexia,

      I can find no mention of age in Grey Shrike-thrushes in any of my reference books. Smaller birds tend to live for only a few years, and up to about 10 years. Larger birds can live much longer. Parrots, for example, can live 20 – 40 years, especially if kept in a cage. Magpies can live for up to 25 years, but many baby birds die before they are 1 year old.

  33. Alexia Kirshfield says:

    I just found one with a broken wing, and when I came back to feed it, he was having a cesure, and he died. I’m just wondering why he died.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi again Alexia,

      The shock of breaking a wing is what probably caused its death. If it was near a window, it probably saw the reflection of trees in the window and tried to fly right through, crashing into the glass. Bird strikes on windows cause many injuries and many bird deaths around the world every day.

  34. Pattie Ritchie says:

    Hi Trevor,
    What a wonderful lot of reading on your blog about the grey strike thrushes.
    We have a pair that have just built a nest in the top of a stag fern under the eaves of our home and also under the pergola. They have only been sitting on the nest for 4 days.
    I’ve been reading up to learn more about them and how long we may have them with us. They do sing and call a lot as they share the nesting time.
    We have lived here for 12 years in this home which is situated in central Victoria.
    Many questions and comments have been made by you, keep up the great information.
    Pattie

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Pattie,

      Thank you for your kind words. We love hearing the song of the Grey Shrike-thrushes too. We have them resident in our garden and they give us great delight. Did you know that their Latin name is Colluricincla harmonica? The species was once called the Harmonious Thrush or the Musical Shrike-thrush. Much more beautiful names for a magnificent bird, in my opinion.

  35. Pattie Ritchie says:

    Hi Trevor, thanks for your reply. Unfortunately we ended up with no babies, only one of three eggs hatched and the chick didn’t survive more than a few days, I’m curious about what they did with the chick? Do they dispose of them outside the nest or could something else have taken it?
    They have rebuilt the nest and are sitting on three eggs again but it has only been a few days. We look forward to a better result this time.
    Pattie

  36. Stephanie says:

    Hi Trevor,
    We had a pair of GST nesting in the honeysuckle on our archway but this morning we found a snake had eaten the mother. The father has been calling for her for hours. There are 2 babies and one egg. Will the father now look after them as a single parent?

  37. Pattie Ritchie says:

    Hi Stephanie, I’m feeling for you, it must have been very stressing. Hopefully the male will be able to raise the chicks on his own.
    We’ve had too lots of eggs and the parents don’t seem to be able to get them to a time when they’re ready to leave the nest. It’s also a mystery as to where the chicks end up, both of the last lot just mysteriously disappeared from the nest, which was six feet off the ground in an elk horn fern that was on the wall under the eaves of our home.
    Cheers Pattie

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