Family Woodswallows and Butcherbirds (Artamidae)

Least Concern

Silver-backed Butcherbird (Cracticus argenteus)


French: Cassican à dos argent German: Silberrücken-Krähenstar Spanish: Verdugo plateado

Cracticus argenteus


, 1841,

north-west coast of Australia


Often considered conspecific with C. torquatus (which see), but differs in its black vs white lores (3); white vs grey-washed whitish throat to mid-belly (2); much stronger white wing-flash (2); paler, greyer back, scapulars and rump (ns[1]); and slightly elongate black line extending down neck sides (ns[1]); voice also said to be different, but further evidence required. Race colletti often synonymized with nominate, but seems reasonably distinctive. Proposed race latens (Uwins I, in N Western Australia) included in argenteus. Type locality of nominate disputed; if this name is instead applicable to Arnhem Land form (with type locality of Port Essington), Western Australian form then takes name latens. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. a. argenteus Gould, 1841 – Western Australia (Kimberley region E from Yampi Sound and mouth of Fitzroy R) and marginally NW Northern Territory (E to mouth of Victoria R), S to Great Sandy Desert.
  • C. a. colletti Mathews, 1912 – coastal Northern Territory from Victoria R almost to E tip of Arnhem Land, S to N Tanami Desert in W.
  • Descriptive notes

    27–30 cm. Medium-sized butcherbird with strong bill ending in sharp terminal hook. Nominate differs from C. torquatus in having completely black head (no white on... read more


    Vocalizations of argenteus and colletti little known, but that of former... read more


    Both nominate and colletti inhabit mainly riparian forest, especially of cadjeput (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates, mainly insects, also small vertebrates, especially small birds and nestlings; some fruit and seeds, and nectar. Forages from... read more


    Lays Aug–Sept (end of dry season) in NW of range (race argenteus). Nests usually in simple pairs, sometimes with a helper, usually... read more


    Sedentary. Many anecdotal reports of seasonal movements probably refer to post-breeding dispersal... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally rather uncommon and patchily distributed. Population unknown and trends also unclear. In some areas, numbers have declined... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Silver-backed Butcherbird (Cracticus argenteus). 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 27 May 2019).