Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #79 - Rufous Whistler

Chris Watson

Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris

Our bird this week is the male Rufous Whistler, responsible for some of the more strident and energetic notes of the Central Australian dawn chorus. It produces these with the avian vocal organ called the syrinx. This is similar to our larynx but with twice the number of vibrating membranes, allowing a richness of harmonic effects beyond the reach of the finest human vocalists. You will hear these finely turned out birds in stentorian colloquy throughout any good mulga woodland habitat around town, including Olive Pink Botanic Gardens and Alice Springs Desert Park.

Alice Springs had a visit this week from Australian Reptile Park and Devil Ark director John Weigel, during his world record attempt at an Australian Big Year. John has carved an impressive swathe through the list of inland bird species in recent weeks, and was drawn to Alice Springs by recent sightings of Princess Parrots and our ever-reliable Dusky Grasswrens.

 Unfortunately, we were unable to find a Spinifexbird to add to his list, but this is not a great setback. John’s list is already nudging 600 before the year is half gone. By comparison, the current record holder, Sean Dooley, had 414 species on his list at this time of year when he set the record (703 species) in 2002.

John’s record attempt is a way of raising awareness of the plight of his much-bedevilled ward, the Tasmanian Devil. Sadly, it seems almost inevitable that they will become extinct in Tasmania in the not-too-distant future. The Devil Ark insurance population then becomes crucial in ensuring the survival of the species and maintaining genetic diversity until such time as they can be reintroduced to the island. Learn more and follow John’s progress at;

Happy birding!