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Species Guide

Black-backed Butcherbird

Cracticus mentalis

The black-backed butcherbird (Cracticus mentalis) is a robust avian species, characterized by its stark black and white plumage. It possesses a black head, lores, lower back, and wings, contrasted by a white nape, throat, and underparts. The wing feathers are delicately edged with white, and the rump and base of the tail exhibit a soft grey. Adult birds measure approximately 25 cm in length, with Australian specimens being slightly smaller than their New Guinean counterparts. The eyes of this species are a deep brown, the legs a muted grey, and the bill a pale bluish grey with a black tip, culminating in a pronounced hook.

Identification Tips

When identifying the black-backed butcherbird, look for the distinctive black and white coloration, the hooked bill, and the white-edged wing feathers. Juveniles can be recognized by their more disheveled brown and white plumage, which follows the adult pattern, and a darker bill.


This species thrives in the savannah and open woodlands, where it can be seen perched conspicuously.


The black-backed butcherbird is indigenous to the Cape York Peninsula, north of the Palmer River, and the Trans-Fly region near Port Moresby in New Guinea, up to elevations of 600 meters.


A curious behavior observed in the black-backed butcherbird is anting, a practice where birds may use ants to rid themselves of parasites.


As a carnivorous bird, the black-backed butcherbird preys on small lizards and birds, showcasing its predatory nature.


The breeding process involves constructing a nest in the fork of a tree, made from dry sticks and lined with finer materials such as dried grass, bark, and leaves. The clutch typically contains two to four eggs, most commonly three, which are blotched with brown and come in various shades of pale greyish- or brownish-green, or red. The eggs are oval and measure about 27 mm by 20 mm.

Conservation status

The black-backed butcherbird is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating a stable population without immediate threats to its survival.

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Black-backed Butcherbirds on Birda

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Bryn Pickering
23 Oct 2022 - 8:37am

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