White-winged Chough

White-winged Chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos) pair standing in a grassy area
White-Winged_Chough group feeding young bird on the ground

Group feeding a young bird

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Scientific Name: Corcorax melanorhamphos

Size: 43 to 47 cm

What does it look and sound like?

The White-winged Chough is a large, almost completely black bird. It has a curved beak, a red eye and a large white wing patch, which is seen when the bird is in flight. The bill and legs are black. Both the male and female share the same plumage pattern. The White-winged Chough is often first noticed by a mournful, descending whistle. If disturbed, it gives a ratchet-like call.

Young White-winged Choughs start off duskier than the adults, and the eye is brown. They do not reach sexual maturity until four years of age and, during this time, the eye changes from brown to orange and then to red, and the plumage darkens.

From a distance, the White-winged Chough may be confused with one of the Crows or Ravens, Corvus sp., but the curved bill and red eye separate them. Crows and Ravens also lack the white wing patch. Currawongs, Strepera sp., have a white wing patch and mostly black plumage, but the patch is smaller and the birds also have a yellow eye.

Where is it found?

They are found throughout most of eastern and south-eastern mainland Australia, but are absent from northern Queensland.

What are its habitats & habits?

White-winged Choughs are found in open forests and woodlands. They tend to prefer the wetter areas, where there is a lot of leaf-litter, for feeding, and available mud for nest building. 

The White-winged Chough feeds mostly on the ground. It is extremely sociable, almost always seen in groups of up to 10, raking through the grass and ground litter. Food consists of insects and some seeds. Large feeding territories are kept, which are often up to 1000 hectares in size.

White-winged Choughs stay in medium to large social flocks throughout the breeding season. These groups normally consist of only one breeding pair, the other birds being offspring from previous years. The young birds take 4 yrs to reach breeding maturity and stay with the parents during this time. The young birds help with nest building, incubation and feeding of chicks. The nest of the White-winged Chough is a large bowl of mud, which is built on a horizontal branch within 15 m of the ground. It may take several months to build if there is insufficient rain to moisten the mud. If there is a lack of mud, birds may use cattle or Emu dung. The 3 to 5, sometimes up to 10, eggs are cream-coloured, with large brown spots. The chicks hatch after 19 days, and the young birds leave the nest after a further 28 days. At this time the chicks are not able to fly, and are easy prey for feral cats and foxes. The young birds are able to fly as strongly as their parents after another 28 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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