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Western Whistler

Pachycephala fuliginosa

The Western Whistler, Pachycephala fuliginosa, is a charming bird species belonging to the Pachycephalidae family, gracing the southwest of Australia with its presence. This bird, once considered a subspecies of the Australian golden whistler, has been recognized as a distinct species following molecular studies that revealed its closer kinship to the mangrove golden whistler complex.

Identification Tips

The male Western Whistler is a striking figure with a black head and nape, a white throat, and a black collar. Its yellow underbelly extends behind its neck, creating a vivid contrast. The wings are adorned with alternating olive and grey linear stripes, and it sports a thin grey tail. The female, while sharing the body shape, presents with a grey head, a white underbelly, and wings feathered in shades of brown and grey, also ending in a grey tail. Two subspecies are recognized: P. f. occidentalis and P. f. fuliginosa.

Habitat

These birds are found in a variety of drier habitats, including forested shrubland with dense undergrowth, soft land scrubs, woodlands, and even the occasional garden park or exotic pine plantation. They are adaptable and can live at various elevations, including mountainous regions.

Distribution

The Western Whistler's range extends from Kalbarri southward and eastward to the drier regions of South Australia and Western Victoria.

Behaviour

Some populations of Western Whistlers are resident year-round, while others exhibit altitudinal migration, moving to open lower elevation areas during the non-breeding season. This movement is influenced by age and sex, with adult females and juveniles often migrating before males. In some populations, males migrate while females do not. They exhibit territorial behaviour during the breeding season, which includes singing, rivalry, and displays of physical dominance.

Song & Calls

In the quest for female attention, male Western Whistlers produce a variety of shrieking sounds that vary in pace and volume. These vocalizations are part of their courtship display, which also involves a strained posture with wings spread, circling the female.

Breeding

The breeding season spans from August to February, peaking from September to October. Western Whistlers typically pair up for breeding and may separate after the season, although some pairs may remain together for life. Females are responsible for constructing the nest using undergrowth, twigs, and other foliage.

Diet and Feeding

Omnivorous in nature, Western Whistlers feed on invertebrates such as spiders and insects, as well as fruits and, on rare occasions, seeds. They forage primarily in shrubs and tree crowns, seldom hunting on the ground. There are noted differences in feeding habits between the sexes in some areas, and they may forage in the company of other bird species.

Conservation Status

The Western Whistler 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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