Black & White Birds

Photo: Rosie Nicolai

Black & White Birds

What bird is that? Many birds look similar and can be hard to tell apart from a distance. Black and white birds are some of the most commonly seen in our backyards.

Pied Butcherbird

The Pied Butcherbird has a beautiful, musical call that sounds like loud, clear notes from a flute.

This bird likes to duet with its mate. Pied Butcherbirds often call from high up in a tree where they are hard to see, but their calls travel over a great distance.

Pied Butcherbirds stay with their parents for a year and a half after hatching and help raise younger siblings.

This bird has a black ‘bib’ on its throat, lined by a white collar and dark, almost black eyes. Unlike the Magpie, the Pied Butcherbird has white underparts.

Pied Currawong

The Pied Currawong gets its name from its call, which goes ‘curra-wong, curra-wong’.

Almost everyone in eastern Australia will have seen the Pied Currawong. They only live on Australia’s east coast but there are a lot of them around.

The Pied Currawong is identified by its bright yellow eye. It is mainly black with a few white patches.

Pied Currawongs can mimic sounds like mobile phones.

Australian Magpie

Magpies are known for swooping, but actually most of them don’t. Females don’t swoop at all, and only 12% of males do. These dads are just protecting their chicks.

Magpies swoop from August to September when they have babies in the nest. The rest of the year they’re harmless.

You can tell a Magpie by its red-brown eyes. Magpies are mostly black with a white patch on the back of their neck. Their tummies are black and their rumps are white.

Magpies make a caroling call and can mimic human voices.

Black Currawong

This bird makes a memorable ‘kar-week, week-kar’ call. Black Currawongs only live in Tasmania. They are easy to distinguish from Ravens or Crows because they have bright yellow eyes.

Ravens and Crows have white eyes and are black all over, but the Black Currawong has a little bit of white on its tail feathers.

These Currawongs live mainly in the mountains but come down to lower altitudes and warmer temperatures in winter.

Forest Raven

Forest Ravens live mainly in Tasmania, but also in a few isolated pockets in New South Wales and Victoria.

Like other Ravens, the Forest Raven has brilliant white eyes, and only jet black feathers. You can tell it from other kinds of Ravens because it has a shorter tail.

Willie Wagtail

The Willie Wagtail is a little bird with a long, fanned tail. They love to wag their tails from side to side and up and down.

Willie Wagtails have very musical, sweet calls and are a delight to listen to. This bird only grows up to 20 cm in length, and has dark eyes and a white tummy.

Magpie-lark or Peewee

This bird gets its nickname from its ‘peewee, peewee’ call. Its real name is the Magpie-lark even though it isn’t related to Magpies or Larks—it’s more closely related to Drongos, Fantails and Monarchs.

Magpie-larks build big bowl-shaped nests out of grasses and twigs that they plaster together with mud.

At 30 cm in length, Magpie-larks are smaller than Magpies.


What is a backyard buddy?

Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies— to give you tips to help.

Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. Birds are backyard buddies.

Backyard buddies are also the local people who value the living things around them, like birds, and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes.

So you can be a backyard buddy.

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care…and take a few simple steps.

Step one is to find out what birds do and do not like.

Birds love:

Big, old trees – mature trees in the backyard or park give birds somewhere safe to build their nests and sleep at night. Plant native trees in your area to make sure there are plenty of trees available for birds in the future.

Water – a container of water left outside invites birds to come and have a drink. They also like to bathe, play and cool down in water on hot days.

Mulched gardens – putting mulch, leaf litter, bark and rocks amongst your plants encourages lizards and insects to your yard. This attracts birds looking for an easy meal.

Eating garden pests – such as mice, crickets, grasshoppers, snails, lizards and other insects.

To play and sing – birds are very acrobatic, playful and entertaining to watch. Magpies and Currawongs can also mimic sounds like car alarms, dogs barking, phones ringing, and even human voices!

But they don’t like:

Cats and dogs – that chase them or try to catch them. Train dogs to leave birds alone and keep cats indoors at night.

Pesticides – that poison snails, insects, rodents or lizards. If a bird eats a poisoned creature, it can become sick or die.

Fast cars – with drivers that aren’t careful when going past bushy areas or parks.

Bad food – birds love to find their own natural food. If you give them the wrong things to eat, they can become sick.

People disturbing their nests – birds like Magpies only swoop because they are worried that a person will disturb their chicks. Magpies swoop for just 6 weeks a year, but if one is swooping you, take a different route for a few weeks.

Be a black and white bird buddy

Try to:

  • listen for bird calls and discover which birds you have in your local area.
  • look at the eye colour of the bird and its markings to help you identify it.
  • keep mature trees in your garden and around your area for birds to nest in.
  • leave fallen branches around if they pose no danger.
  • include mulch, leaf litter and rocks in your garden.
  • plant native trees so tomorrow’s birds have somewhere to live.
  • keep your dog away from birds and train them not to chase or bark at birds.
  • leave a container of water out for birds to drink, bathe and play in.

Be a backyard buddy


  • using pesticides or chemicals in your garden that could poison rodents, lizards, snails or other insects which birds eat.
  • taking eggs from nests—it’s illegal.
  • letting cats and dogs get too close to birds or their nests.
  • feeding birds as they are happy and healthy catching their own food

Don’t be surprised if:

  • you hear a bird calling but don’t see it.
  • you see many different types of black and white birds in the same area.
  • you can hear chicks begging for food, but can’t see the nest.
  • a black and white bird tries to pinch some food from an unattended picnic table or bush walker’s backpack—these are very intelligent, and cheeky, birds.
  • you see a black and white bird doing something clever—these are smart birds!
  • you see two or more kinds of birds roosting, or nesting, in the same tree.
  • you hear birds calling around sunrise and sunset, or even at night.