Varied Triller

Did you know?

The first part the Varied Triller's scientific name, Lalage, comes from a bird mentioned in a large dictionary of unusual Greek words compiled by one Hesychius in the 5th or 6th Century C.E. However Hesychius did not describe this bird.

A distinctive "churring trill" sound. This has also been described as a soft rattling or rolling note, like a pea whistle, or as cicada-like. It also has a somewhat shrill piping call.
Facts and Figures
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August/September to February/March plus reports from May and June.
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What does it look like?

The male adult Varied Triller is black above, with white markings on the wings and is white underneath, with grey barring on the breast. He has white eyebrows, a black eye-stripe and a rufous area on the rear underbody. The adult female is similar but browner above and  her underparts are greyer with more pronounced grey bars across her breast. Juveniles are similar to the females. There are several subspecies of Varied Triller but the differences between them are fairly subtle. The Varied Triller is also known as the Pied, White-browed or White-eyebrowed Triller or Caterpillar-eater or Varied Caterpillar-eater.  

Similar species: 

The Varied Triller can be distinguished from the White-winged Triller, Lalage sueurii, by its white eyebrow and by the orange-rufous, cinnamon or buff area on its rear underbody. The Varied Triller also has less white on its wings and is more heavily barred underneath.

Where does it live?

The Varied Triller is found along the east coast of Australia from about the Manning River (though some have been seen occasionally in the Hunter region) north to Cape York and in New Guinea. It is also found down the west side of the Cape York Peninsula to the south-east Gulf of Carpentaria. It is found in the top end of the Northern Territory and in the western and northern Kimberlys. Some subspecies of Varied Triller are also found in New Guinea. (Across its total range there are 14 to 16 subspecies of Varied Triller, but only four in Australia - Lalage leucomela, itself and subspecies yorki of eastern Australia and subspecies macrura and rufiventris of northern and north-western Australia).


Varied Trillers are mainly found in tropical and subtropical rainforests and woodlands, mangroves and in forests and woodlands close to rivers or creeks. They are also ocascasionally found in open eucalypt forests searching for fruit, especially that of Fig (Ficus) trees and for eucalypt flowers.

Seasonal movements: 

The seasonal movements of Varied Trillers is not well known but they appear to stay in the one area and not to migrate. 

What does it do?

Varied Trillers feed mainly on fruit and sometimes on seeds, nectar and insects. They mostly feed in the outer foliage of trees, but occasionally on the ground or on tree trunks near the ground. They are attracted to fruiting trees particularly to Fig and flowering eucalyptus trees. 


The Varied Triller's nest is an open, shallow cup, barely large enough to hold a single egg. Nests are made of fine twigs, bark, vine tendrills, rootlets, plant stalks and grasses. The whole is bound together with spider web and lined with lichen or rootlets. The nest is usually in a horizontal  fork, near the end of a thin branch of a small tree. Trees chosen are often paperbarks or mangroves. Both adult birds share the incubation of the egg and the feeding of the nestling. The incubation period is not known.

Living with us

Varied Triller numbers are likely to have been reduced by the clearing of rain forests, especially down the east Australian coast.

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