Butcherbird Lullaby

photo of Black Butcherbird

Just before leaving Queensland, I managed to snag a really nice recording of one of my favorite rainforest birds: the Black Butcherbird. Cousin of the well-known Pied Butcherbird, a fabulous songster in his own right, the Black Butcherbird has a resonant, musical song that can be heard at long distances, even in dense forest. Here is a sample of my catch:

Black Butcherbird singing a long sequence of resonant, musical songs. Recorded by Lang Elliott, 29 Sept 2012 in Kuranda National Park, Queensland.

I heard many Black Butcherbirds in Queensland rainforests, mostly giving their pleasing songs way off in the distance, usually just a few songs followed by long periods of silence. This individual was different from most others because “he” (I presume a male) sang song after song in a slow-paced, measured sequence. His entire performance lasted nearly twenty minutes, possibly longer, allowing me to rush through the forest in his direction and finally approach within a short distance to capture his performance.

One song pattern clearly dominates, with interesting variations thrown-in every now and then. The effect is relaxing and mesmerizing. Listen carefully for a second butcherbird sounding off in the distance. The high-pitched twitterings of other forest birds provide a pleasing backdrop to the recording … I was fortunate that no other bird was singing loudly nearby, as that would have distracted from the butcherbird’s melodious ramblings.

Relax and enjoy this wonderfully relaxing recording.

photo of Black Butcherbird by Carl Gerhardt

p.s. Many thanks to Carl Gerhardt for the photos! Actually, they are “video frame grabs” taken from high definition video footage of birds Carl is gathering here in Australia.


  1. You should hear the Grey Butcherbird call. It has a similarity to the Kookaburra laugh at times with a “woohoo” at the end. Its a crackup 🙂

    • Dave: I have a pretty decent recording of a Grey Butcherbird, the musical songs of a single male quite possibly duetting with his mate. I plan to post that recording sometime in the next few weeks, for discussion about duetting.

  2. I can hear the second Black Butcherbird in the background. What a wonderful song this bird has! I’ve never even heard of a Black Butcherbird until now.

  3. Lang, The Black Butcherbird song is wonderful and like you said relaxing. I wish he and is friend were in my backyard singing away. Hope you are having a great adventure in Australia! Your sister, Jackie

  4. Lang, your description of the song as “relaxing and mesmerizing” is so true….a nice complement to meditation, I would think. Just as I was thinking how interesting that he startss each song segment with a tone of consistent pitch and duration, he altered that. Thanks and good fortune in your adventure.

    Davis Marsh

  5. Wow, that is truly a captivating melody!! I love how he varies his song from time to time to mix it up a little. Great catch Lang, and very relaxing indeed!

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