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White-bellied Cuckooshrike

Coracina papuensis

The White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Coracina papuensis, is a member of the Campephagidae family, displaying a pale blue-grey plumage on its head and upperparts, including the upper wings. The tail feathers are a darker shade of grey. As its name suggests, the belly is typically white, although it can vary to grey in some regions and subspecies. Notably, the species has a short black mask stretching from the beak to the eyes, complemented by a fine white rear eye-ring. Adult birds measure between 22 and 29 cm in length and weigh between 55 and 80 grams.

Identification Tips

Look for the distinctive black mask and white rear eye-ring, which set this species apart from others. The White-bellied Cuckooshrike is smaller and more compact than the similar Black-faced Cuckooshrike. Immature birds may appear duller with less distinct markings and lightly barred underparts.

Habitat

This adaptable bird occupies a variety of habitats, including savannas, woodlands, Eucalyptus forests, and even suburban gardens. It is typically found in lower-lying forested areas, generally below 800 meters above sea level.

Distribution

The White-bellied Cuckooshrike is found across Australia, the Moluccas, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. It is common in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, less so in Indonesia, and widespread in tropical and eastern Australia.

Behaviour

These birds are primarily sedentary or locally nomadic, with some subspecies, such as C. p. robusta, showing migratory behavior. They are often seen flying in an undulating pattern, flapping to gain altitude before gliding with stiff wings.

Song & Calls

The call of the White-bellied Cuckooshrike is a peevish "kissik kissik" or "quiseek." It also emits a weak, squealing, and slurred "whee-eeyu" or "wee-year," reminiscent of parrot vocalizations.

Breeding

Breeding seasons vary by region, with August to March being the typical period in Australia and March to June in southern New Guinea. Nests are shallow cups made from natural materials and spider webs, usually placed 7 to 10 meters above ground. Clutch size ranges from 1 to 3 eggs, with color variations across regions.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of larger insects such as dragonflies, cockroaches, and grasshoppers, supplemented by spiders, fruit, and seeds. Foraging techniques include gleaning from tree foliage and occasional ground foraging.

Conservation status

With an extensive range and a stable or increasing population trend, the White-bellied Cuckooshrike is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. It does not meet the thresholds for vulnerable status based on range size, population size, or trend criteria.

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