Crested Shrike-tit

Did you know?

Crested Shrike-tits may be heard tearing at the bark of trees, looking for insects to eat.

Calls
Repeated plaintive whistle: 'keep-keep-keep'; can be ventriloquial and often mimics other species.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
15cm
Maximum Size: 
19cm
Average size: 
17cm
Average weight: 
27g
Breeding season: 
August to January
Clutch Size: 
2 to 3 eggs
Incubation: 
20 days
Nestling Period: 
17 days
Conservation Status
Federal: 
NSW: 
QLD: 
VIC: 
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
416
What does it look like?
Description: 

The Crested Shrike-tit is a medium-small bird with a striking black and white striped head and neck, a small crest that is often held flattened over crown, a black throat, and a short heavy bill with hooked tips. It has wide, rounded wings and a square-tipped tail that can appear slightly forked. The species is separated into three geographically isolated subspecies. Males of the Eastern Shike-tit, frontatus, have an olive green back and rump, striking yellow underparts, with grey wings and tail. The male Western Shrike-tit, leucogaster, has a white abdomen, paler wings and upper body and a yellow undertail. Male Northern Shrike-tits, whitei, are smaller and yellower overall. Females of all races have a smaller head crest and an olive-green throat. Young birds have a pale throat and a brown back.

Similar species: 

The Crested Shrike-tit is hard to mistake for any other species. The male Golden WhistlerPachycephala pectoralis, which is found in similar habitats, has yellow underparts and black and white on the head and neck. However, it has an all-black head with a white throat patch and does not have a crest.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The Crested Shrike-tit is endemic to mainland Australia. The species is separated into three geographically isolated subspecies.The Eastern Shike-tit, frontatus, is found along the coast of eastern Australia from the Atherton region, Queensland, to south-eastern South Australia. The Western Shrike-tit, leucogaster, is found in south-west Western Australia, but is absent from the Swan Coastal Plain. The endangered Northern Shrike-tit, whitei, is found in the Top End of the Northern Territory and, sparsely, in the far north of Western Australia, including the Kimberley.

Habitat: 

The Crested Shrike-tit is found in eucalypt forests and woodlands, forested gullies and along rivers in drier areas. It can also be found in rainforests. It is sometimes seen in parks and gardens, on farms with scattered trees, and on pine plantations.

Seasonal movements: 

Sedentary, with some local movements in autumn and winter.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

The Crested Shrike-tit feeds mainly on insects, but will sometimes eat fruits and seeds. It forages in trees, rarely on or near the ground, tearing at or probing bark for insects with its short strong bill. It usually forages alone, in pairs or in groups of up to five birds, which are usually related. It will also be seen in mixed feeding flocks with other insect-eating birds, especially male Golden Whistlers.

Breeding: 

The male Shrike-tit selects a nest-site in a high fork of a eucalypt tree, attracting the female to him with quivering and waving wings. The female builds the deep cone-shaped nest from dry grass and bark strips, covering the outside with spider web, moss and lichen. The male helps collect materials, and both sexes incubate the eggs and feed the young. Two broods may be raised in a season, and the young birds may remain with their parents until the beginning of the next breeding season. Nests may be parasitised by Pallid, Brush and Fan-tailed Cuckoos.

Living with us

The northern subspecies of the Crested Shrike-tit, whitei, is endangered in Western Australia, occurring at such low densities in some areas that populations may not be able to renew themselves and are isolated from each other. More frequent, hot fires in the dry season decrease the ability of insects to establish themselves under bark, reducing the Shrike-tit's main food source. The near-threatened western subspecies, leucogaster, is affected by land-clearing in the wheat belt, where it is unable to survive even in large remnant vegetation patches. The eastern subspecies, frontatus, is probably affected adversely by urban development. It was formerly common in Sydney Harbour National Park, but has not been reported there recently.

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