Habitat: The Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) is common throughout much of its range, and there is scarcely a tract of open forest anywhere in Australia without it. Due to the early expulsion of young from territories, Rufous Whistlers tend to occur alone or in pairs in the breeding season, but when southeastern birds migrate north during the autumn, small groups often congregate. Birds can be observed gleaning from or hovering among, foliage throughout the day, sometimes dropping to the ground to forage. Insects, including larvae, are taken quietly and methodically from branch to branch; berries and fruit are rarely consumed.
Diet: For whistlers, foraging for food on the ground is uncommon since they usually do not do so at a high level. It is rare for Rufous Whistlers and Golden Whistlers to coexist in the mid and upper strata of trees; the two species share a similar diet and feeding behavior.
Courtship: When courtship feeding takes place, either bird emits begging noises while crouched with wings spread, hopping behind the other. The male inspects potential nest sites, but the female appears to make the final decision, and she builds the nest. The female incubates at night, but both sexes brood and feed the young.
Identification: Adults: the upper parts are mid-grey. The wings and tail are dusky with pale grey feather edges. Black through the eyes and, in the south, through lores encircling the white throat. Breast rufous, grading grey on upper flanks and paler on belly. Eyes are ruby in color. The bill is black. Feet are slate-grey. The female upper parts are brown or grey; with faint streaking on the head. Lores are whitish. Throat white, grading to pale rufous breast, belly, and undertail; fine dusky streaks on throat and upper breast. The immature bird’s upper parts are cinnamon-grey with pale feather edges; green tinge on the back and wings in males. Throat to belly are white with dusky streaks. Eyes are brown. The bill is pale grey. A large percentage of juveniles are streaked, with pointed tail feathers.
Vocalizations: Rufous whistlers make a variety of musical calls that consist of multiple ringing notes. Musical notes accompanied by a chattering call. The song in Breeding is loud and tuneful, resembling pee-pee-pee, joey-joey-joey, and ending with eeee-chong with an explosive last syllable. It is often repeated repeatedly throughout the day, mostly by males. Vocal abilities are equally shared by both sexes. Often, birds call in chorus during display and bowing between the male and female of a pair. During nesting, the female is usually quieter.
Nesting & Breeding: Rufous Whistler pairs establish territories during breeding season. Rival males engage in a song during boundary disputes, as they draw closer to perch, sometimes within half a meter of each other. They cock their tails, raise their crown feathers, rock, bow, bob, and sometimes erupt into chasing flights. A resident female will assist in territorial defense. Nesting and breeding occur between September and February. Nest consists of fine twigs and grasses, lined with fine grasses and rootlets, located in a tree fork or low bush, up to 10 m above ground but mostly below.
Family: Despite its subdued plumage, the rufous whistler sings a variety of musical calls like many others in the Pachycephalidae to the order Passeriformes.
Movements: Migratory birds return south to their territories in late August. However, elsewhere this species is a partial migrant, and locally breeding birds are commonly sedentary or nomadic.
Alternative Names:It is also known as Rufous-breasted Whistler, Rufous-breasted Thickhead, Echong, Mock Whipbird, and Thunderbird.
Size: The size of Rufous Whistler is 160-170 mm long.
Eggs & Incubation: Eggs: two or three; dull olive blotched dark brown; oval, about 23 x 17 mm. The incubation period lasts 12-15 days, for both sexes. It takes 10-15 days for the young to fledge.
Distribution: All types of open forest and woodland throughout mainland Australia. Also New Caledonia.
Races: There are five races, only one in Australia.