Family Whistlers (Pachycephalidae)

Least Concern

Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis)


French: Siffleur doré German: Gelbbauch-Dickkopf Spanish: Silbador dorado

M[uscicapa]. pectoralis


, 1801,

Port Jackson, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Traditionally treated as including P. teysmanni, P. fulvotincta, P. orioloides, P. feminina, P. vitiensis, P. mentalis and P. par, thereby constituting some 59 valid subspecies; in past, also included P. melanura, and as many as 73 races recognized#R. This complex of taxa has been notoriously difficult to reduce into coherent taxonomic units owing to mosaic and inconstant plumage patterns. Recent trend has been to accept moderately well-defined groups identified by detailed morphological analysis#R (outlined in HBW) as species#R#R supplemented by biogeographical considerations and splits deriving from potentially revolutionary but incomplete and partially contradictory molecular studies#R#R. Published rearrangements are, however, no less arbitrary and no more robust than traditional treatment, and this is true also of the arrangement offered here, which results from a partial review of morphological evidence and a consideration of modern treatments and findings in the literature. Species limits are here very tentatively based on a general sharing of characters, with usually no attempt to apply the Tobias criteria owing to incomplete character constancy. Comprehensive work is needed in order to provide vocal, ecological, behavioural and molecular evidence to support or revise these proposals. Present species defined entirely on basis of the constant characters of a white chin and throat and black breastband in all taxa except the large-billed, yellow-throated fuscoflava, which merits particular attention, and the “hen-feathered” xanthoprocta, which appears to be close to contempta. Races vanikorensis, intacta, chlorura, cucullata and littayei recently assigned to P. caledonica by some authors#R#R, but this is unsupported by morphological or indeed molecular#R evidence (see P. caledonica). Races sharpei and dammeriana, although little different in plumage, indicated by molecular work#R to be anomalously positioned, as is fuscoflava; the same molecular study has been invoked to give balim species status#R#R. NW Australian populations of fuliginosa found to be more closely related to P. melanura, and proposed for species rank under the reinstated name occidentalis#R; reinstatement of name accepted here, but taxon provisionally retained as race of present species pending further clarification. Molecular study#R indicates validity of race arthuri, which was previously synonymized with calliope but is longer-billed and yellower-naped. Other proposed races include alfurorum (Seram), included in macrorhyncha, and queenslandica (Big Tableland, in NE Queensland) and ashbyi (S Queensland, extreme N New South Wales), included in nominate. Name chlorura awarded precedence over cucullata by First Reviser#R#R. Thirty-one subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. pelengensis Neumann, 1941 – Banggai Is (E of Sulawesi).
  • P. p. clio Wallace, 1863 – Sula Is (E of Sulawesi).
  • P. p. buruensis E. J. O. Hartert, 1899 – Buru.
  • P. p. macrorhyncha Strickland, 1849 – Moluccan Whistler – Seram and Ambon.
  • P. p. fuscoflava P. L. Sclater, 1883 – Tanimbar Is (Larat, Yamdena).
  • P. p. arthuri E. J. O. Hartert, 1906 – Wetar I.
  • P. p. calliope Bonaparte, 1850 – Timor Whistler – Timor and Semau.
  • P. p. dammeriana E. J. O. Hartert, 1900 – Damar Whistler – Damar I.
  • P. p. sharpei A. B. Meyer, 1884 – Babar Whistler – Babar I.
  • P. p. balim Rand, 1940 – Baliem Whistler – WC New Guinea (N slopes of Snow Mts).
  • P. p. goodsoni Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1914 – Admiralty Is.
  • P. p. sexuvaria Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1924 – St Matthias Group.
  • P. p. citreogaster E. P. Ramsay, 1876 – Bismarck Whistler – Bismarck Archipelago (New Hanover, Djaul, New Ireland, Feni, Umboi, New Britain, Nusa, Tolokiwa).
  • P. p. tabarensis Mayr, 1955 – Bismarck Archipelago: Tabar (off E New Ireland).
  • P. p. ottomeyeri Stresemann, 1933 – Bismarck Archipelago: Lihir (off E New Ireland).
  • P. p. collaris E. P. Ramsay, 1878 – Louisiade Whistler – Louisiade Archipelago (Egum, Bonvouloir Group, Conflict Group, Teste, Deboyne Group, Misima, Renard), off SE New Guinea.
  • P. p. rosseliana E. J. O. Hartert, 1898 – Rossel I (SE Louisiades).
  • P. p. ornata Mayr, 1932 – N Santa Cruz Is (Swallow Is, Reef Is, Duff Is).
  • P. p. utupuae Mayr, 1932 – C Santa Cruz Is (Utupua).
  • P. p. vanikorensis Oustalet, 1875 – #R#RTemotu Whistler – S Santa Cruz Is (Vanikoro).
  • P. p. intacta Sharpe, 1900 – Banks Is, and N & C Vanuatu (S to Éfaté).
  • P. p. chlorura G. R. Gray, 1860 – Melanesian Whistler – Erromango (SC Vanuatu).
  • P. p. cucullata (G. R. Gray, 1860) – Anatom (S Vanuatu).
  • P. p. littayei E. L. Layard, 1878 – Loyalty Is (Lifou, Ouvéa).
  • P. p. occidentalis E. P. Ramsay, 1878 – Western Whistler – SW Australia.
  • P. p. fuliginosa Vigors & Horsfield, 1827 – SC Australia.
  • P. p. pectoralis (Latham, 1801) – Golden Whistler – E Australia (E Queensland, NE New South Wales).
  • P. p. youngi Mathews, 1912 – SE Australia.
  • P. p. glaucura Gould, 1845 – islands in Bass Strait (King I, Flinders I) and Tasmania.
  • P. p. contempta E. J. O. Hartert, 1898 – Lord Howe I.
  • P. p. xanthoprocta Gould, 1838 – Norfolk I.
  • Descriptive notes

    16–19 cm; 19–32 g (many races), variable. Male nominate race has top and sides of head and nape black, this colour extending across upper breast as black... read more


    General song pattern consists of series of loud, clear whistles, sometimes varying in volume and... read more


    Timbered, usually mesic habitats, entering drier and modified habitats to varying extents;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates, mainly insects and spiders (Araneae); occasionally fruit, rarely seeds. Large prey beaten prior to being consumed. Mainly... read more


    Season Aug–Feb (mainly Sept–Oct) in Australia, eggs Sept–Oct on Lord Howe I, and at least Sept–Dec on Norfolk I;... read more


    Not well known; tropical and island populations presumably sedentary. Some Australian populations... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Moderately common to common; locally very common. In SE Australia, described as common in all stages of successional secondary forest... read more

    Recommended citation

    Boles, W., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 October 2018).