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Australian Golden Whistler

An Australian Golden Whistler on the rainforest floor

Scientific Name: Pachycephala pectoralis

Size: 16-17.5 cm

What does it look like?

The Australian Golden Whistler adult male is bright yellow on the underside and olive-green on the back and wings, with a bright yellow collar. The head and upper breast are black, with a large area of white on the throat. The bill and legs are black. Females lack bright plumage. They are generally grey above, with a pale olive tinge, and paler grey below, with a buff wash. The bill is dark brown and the legs are grey-brown. The eye is red-brown in both sexes.

Young Golden Whistlers are similar to the adult female, but are more rufous. This colour is lost as birds mature, but remains on the edges of the wing feathers until the birds grow the full adult plumage.

The Golden Whistler’s voice is strong, musical and varied. Songs include a “we-we-we-tu-whit”, the last note be stronger and whip-like, and a rising “seep”.

Male Golden Whistlers are not easily confused with other Australian bird species, with the exception of the Mangrove Golden Whistler, P. melanura. This species is less brightly coloured and has a longer and narrower tail. The female is smaller than the female Gilbert’s Whistler, P. inornata, which measures around 20 cm. The female Mangrove Golden Whistler has pale yellow underparts.

Where is it found?

The distribution extends from northern Queensland around coastal eastern and southern Australia to the middle of Western Australia. It is also found in Tasmania. As well as Australia, the Golden Whistler is found in Indonesia, Fiji, New Guinea and the Solomons. The birds mostly live in the same areas all year, but birds of the south-east move down from higher altitudes during the winter months.

What are its habitats & habits?

The Golden Whistler can be found in almost any wooded habitat, from rainforest to mallee, but prefers the denser areas. Occasionally parks and orchards are visited.

Golden Whistlers feed on insects, spiders and other small arthropods. Berries are also eaten. Feeding is usually done alone and most food is obtained from the lower or middle tree level. 

Golden Whistlers breed each year, between September and January. Both the male and female share the nest building duties. The nest is a shallow bowl, made of twigs, grass and bark, bound together with spider web. The inside is lined with finer grass. The nest is placed in a fork in a bush or tree up to 6 m above the ground. Only 1 brood is raised in a season and both sexes share the incubation of the 2 to 3 eggs, and care of the young. The eggs hatch about 15 days after they are laid and the young birds leave the nest after a further 12 days.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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