The Butcherbird: the backyard bird horror motion picture

All this week, it’s been the same, terrible ordeal. I scurry from tree to tree, cowering under the spreading canopies of the golden ash flanking the driveway. And, every time, the Butcherbird comes.

As the folk at Birdlife Australia note:

“With its lovely, lilting song, the Grey Butcherbird may not seem to be a particularly intimidating species.”

“However, with its strong, hooked beak and its fierce stare, the Grey Butcherbird is not a bird to be messed with.

“When a nest or newly fledged chick is around, if you venture too close, a butcherbird will swoop by flying straight at your face, sometimes striking with enough force to draw blood, and each swoop is accompanied by a loud, maniacal cackle.”
Birdlife Australia

They’re not joking. Watch the video but don’t show the kids before bed.


The Grey Butcherbird. Pic credit: Birdlife Australia

An aggressive hunter, the Butcherbird gets its name from a grisly habit of impaling or hanging prey in the fork of a tree. Add that to your list of scary Australian native animals!

There might just be one of those maniacal cacklers in your backyard, too. It’s one of the species that regularly makes the charts in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, which runs from October 23 to 29.

Last year, the Rainbow Lorikeet, Noisy Miner and Australian Magpie topped the list of Australia’s most counted birds.

Of course, a farm is the biggest back yard of all. Thanks to a grant from the Norman Wettenhall Foundation the birds that visit our Land for Wildlife dam are regularly documented by local Landcarers.

It’s a fantastic list for one small part of the farm:

  Australasian Grebe   Australasian Shoveller   Australian Magpie
  Australian Pelican   Australian Shelduck Duck   Australian Wood Duck
  Black Swan   Black-fronted Plover   Blue-billed Duck
  Brown Thornbill   Cattle Egret   Chestnut Teal Duck
  Common Blackbird   Common Starling   Crimson Rosella
  Dusky Moorhen   Eastern Rosella   Eastern Yellow Robin
  Eurasian Coot   European Goldfinch   European Skylark
  Galah   Golden-headed Cisticole   Great (black) Cormorant
  Great Egret   Grey Butcherbird   Grey Fantail
  Grey Shrike-thrush   Grey Teal Duck   Hardhead (White-eyed) Duck
  Hoary-headed Grebe   Laughing Kookaburra   Little Black Cormorant
  Little Corella   Little Raven   Little Raven
  Magpie-lark   Masked Lapwing Plover   Musk Duck
  New Holland Honeyeater   Pacific (White-necked) Heron   Pacific Black Duck
  Purple Swamphen   Red Wattlebird   Red-browed Firetail
  Richard’s Pipit   Scarlet Robin   Silvereye
  Spotted Turtle Dove   Striated Pardalote   Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  Superb Fairy-wren   Tree Martin   Welcome Swallow
  White-eared Honeyeater   White-faced Heron   Willie Wagtail
  Yellow-faced Honeyeater


You can get involved too!

The new, updated Aussie Bird Count app lets you get involved and track birds anywhere—not just in your backyard but on the farm, at the park or the beach.

Join the count at

The national total will be updated in real time and the app allows you to see which species are being seen in your local area.


8 thoughts on “The Butcherbird: the backyard bird horror motion picture

  1. As I was reading your post I was thinking, I’d like to be part of that count. When I read on and saw that you have included a link to the app and the website, I was very pleased. Can’t wait to start counting!

  2. Yes a great list of birds and glad that you’ve got R going to add to the list of ABC counters, great work Marian! Loved the dramatic and eerie, spooky music on the video! 🙂

  3. A wonderful list of birds you have on farm. Some we have up here, but some I have not seen. I too like partaking in the Bird Count each year. I love the birdlife that we have on farm, get pretty excited when I find another one to add to my list (I am up to 54 species that I have photographed on farm).

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