Animal Species:Crested Shrike-tit

Crested Shrike-tits may be heard tearing at the bark of trees, looking for insects to eat.

Crested Shrike-tit

SG Lane © SG Lane

Standard Common Name

Crested Shrike-tit

Alternative Name/s

Shrike-tit, crested tit, bark tit

Identification

The Crested Shrike-tit is a medium-small bird with a striking black and white striped head and neck, a small crest that is often held flattened over crown, a black throat, and a short heavy bill with hooked tips. It has wide, rounded wings and a square-tipped tail that can appear slightly forked. The species is separated into three geographically isolated subspecies. Males of the Eastern Shike-tit, frontatus, have an olive green back and rump, striking yellow underparts, with grey wings and tail. The male Western Shrike-tit, leucogaster, has a white abdomen, paler wings and upper body and a yellow undertail. Male Northern Shrike-tits, whitei, are smaller and yellower overall. Females of all races have a smaller head crest and an olive-green throat. Young birds have a pale throat and a brown back.

Size range

15 cm to 19 cm

Similar Species

Golden Whistler

Distribution

The Crested Shrike-tit is endemic to mainland Australia. The species is separated into three geographically isolated subspecies.The Eastern Shike-tit, frontatus, is found along the coast of eastern Australia from the Atherton region, Queensland, to south-eastern South Australia. The Western Shrike-tit, leucogaster, is found in south-west Western Australia, but is absent from the Swan Coastal Plain. The endangered Northern Shrike-tit, whitei, is found in the Top End of the Northern Territory and, sparsely, in the far north of Western Australia, including the Kimberley.

Habitat

The Crested Shrike-tit is found in eucalypt forests and woodlands, forested gullies and along rivers in drier areas. It can also be found in rainforests. It is sometimes seen in parks and gardens, on farms with scattered trees, and on pine plantations.

Seasonality

Sedentary, with some local movements in autumn and winter.

Feeding and Diet

The Crested Shrike-tit feeds mainly on insects, but will sometimes eat fruits and seeds. It forages in trees, rarely on or near the ground, tearing at or probing bark for insects with its short strong bill. It usually forages alone, in pairs or in groups of up to five birds, which are usually related. It will also be seen in mixed feeding flocks with other insect-eating birds, especially male Golden Whistlers.

Communication

Repeated plaintive whistle: 'keep-keep-keep'; can be ventriloquial and often mimics other species.

Mating and reproduction

The male Shrike-tit selects a nest-site in a high fork of a eucalypt tree, attracting the female to him with quivering and waving wings. The female builds the deep cone-shaped nest from dry grass and bark strips, covering the outside with spider web, moss and lichen. The male helps collect materials, and both sexes incubate the eggs and feed the young. Two broods may be raised in a season, and the young birds may remain with their parents until the beginning of the next breeding season. Nests may be parasitised by Pallid, Brush and Fan-tailed Cuckoos.

  • Breeding season: August to January
  • Clutch size: Two to three
  • Incubation: 20 days
  • Time in nest: 17 days

Conservation Status

The northern subspecies of the Crested Shrike-tit, whitei, is endangered in Western Australia, occurring at such low densities in some areas that populations may not be able to renew themselves and are isolated from each other. More frequent, hot fires in the dry season decrease the ability of insects to establish themselves under bark, reducing the Shrike-tit's main food source. The near-threatened western subspecies, leucogaster, is affected by land-clearing in the wheat belt, where it is unable to survive even in large remnant vegetation patches. The eastern subspecies, frontatus, is probably affected adversely by urban development. It was formerly common in Sydney Harbour National Park, but has not been reported there recently.

Classification

Species:
frontatus
Genus:
Falcunculus
Family:
Pachycephalidae
Order:
Passeriformes
Class:
Aves
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Higgins, P.J. and J.M. Peter (eds) 2002. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.


Ondine Evans , Web Researcher/Editor
Last Updated:

Tags BIBY, bird, birds, Crested Shrike-tit, identification, vertebrates, Falcunculus frontatus, Passeriformes, Pachycephalidae,