Family Whistlers (Pachycephalidae)

Least Concern

Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica)


French: Siffleur gris German: Weißzügel-Dickkopf Spanish: Picanzo gris

Turdus harmonicus


, 1801,

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Sister to C. boweri (which see). Races sometimes divided into three species, one in New Guinea and N Australia (superciliosa and brunnea), one in W, C & SC Australia (rufiventris), and a third in E Australia and Tasmania (nominate and strigata); despite wide range of vocal variation, however, songs of all races very similar (few recordings of brunnea and rufiventris), and detection of any difference, likely to be small, would require extensive analysis. Considerable geographical variation, and up to 13 local forms sometimes distinguished, but races intergrade widely. New Guinea population often separated as tachycrypta; differs somewhat from birds in NE Australia (Cape York, in N Queensland), but not sufficiently to warrant subspecific recognition. Other named races, all in Australia, are parryi (Kimberley district of Western Australia), roebucki (Roebuck Bay, in Western Australia) and julietae (interior NW Australia), all merged with brunnea; kolichisi (Western Australia) and whitei (interior South Australia), synonymized with rufiventris; pallescens (E Queensland), anda (NE South Australia) and halmaturina (SE South Australia and adjacent New South Wales and Victoria), all merged with nominate; and kingi (King I, in Bass Strait), merged with strigata. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. h. superciliosa Masters, 1876 – S & E New Guinea E from Sepik Basin and Wewak in N and, in S, from Kurik (inland to Sogeri Plateau, Bulolo Valley, N & S Eastern Highlands Province and Mount Hagen town), Torres Strait islands and extreme NE Australia (N Cape York Peninsula).
  • C. h. brunnea Gould, 1841 – N Western Australia, Northern Territory and NW Queensland.
  • C. h. rufiventris Gould, 1841 – S half of Western Australia and Northern Territory and W two-thirds of South Australia.
  • C. h. harmonica (Latham, 1801) – S half of Queensland and S to NE & SE South Australia (including Kangaroo I), New South Wales and Victoria.
  • C. h. strigata Swainson, 1838 – islands in Bass Strait and Tasmania.
  • Descriptive notes

    22·5–25 cm; 58–74 g. Male nominate race has top of head and hindneck rich dark grey, lores white, side of face and neck paler grey than head top, malar... read more


    Song, throughout year (mainly during breeding season), by both sexes, a rich, melodious series of... read more


    Wide variety of wooded habitats, mainly dominated by eucalypt (Eucalyptus) or acacia (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates, mainly insects, also spiders (Araneae) and millipedes (Diplopoda); also vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, small birds... read more


    Eggs in Jul–Feb in Australia (in N & W starts earlier and more likely to breed also at other times, depending on conditions); in... read more


    Present all year in some localities; appearance at other sites seasonal, may involve dispersal of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread in Australia; fairly common to scarce in New Guinea. In Australia, those in E more tolerant of urbanization than those in W, although... read more

    Recommended citation

    Boles, W. (2019). Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica). 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 19 April 2019).