Artamidae – Woodswallows, Butcherbirds & Currawongs

Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus ©Ian Montgomery Website

Artamidae is a family of passerine birds found in Australia, the Indo-Pacific region, and Southern Asia. It includes 24 extant species in seven genera and two subfamilies: Artaminae (with two genera, the woodswallows & Peltops) and Cracticinae (currawongs, butcherbirds, and the Australian magpie). Artamids used to be monotypic, containing only the woodswallows, but it was expanded to include the family Cracticidae in 1994. Some authors, however, still treat the two as separate families.

Some species, known for their beautiful song, are in this family. Their feeding habits vary from the harmless nector sucking of the woodswallows to the fearless predation on small birds from the pied currawong.

Artamid species occur throughout Australasia with most species occurring in Australia and New Guinea. The social interactions of Artamids vary from the solitary black butcherbird, who lives alone or in a single pair, to the white-breasted woodswallow who lives in flocks or loose colonies. While some species are sedentary, staying close to suburbia and ample food sources, others are migratory or even nomadic like the Masked woodswallow, moving around in response to changes in climate such as rainfall or temperature. Their range of habitats varies between species but most will adapt to rain forests, woodlands, coastal scrubs (swallows), water courses, playing fields, pastoral lands and paperbark mangroves (butcher birds). One of their greatest abilities is to adapt to urban landscapes where they contend with fragmented and degraded remnants of native vegetation

According to the most recent DNA evidence there are just 24 species in this combined family, which are:

Ashy Woodswallow Artamus fuscus
White-breasted Woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus
Fiji Woodswallow Artamus mentalis
Ivory-backed Woodswallow Artamus monachus
Great Woodswallow Artamus maximus
White-backed [Bismark] Woodswallow Artamus insignis
Masked Woodswallow Artamus personatus
White-browed Woodswallow Artamus superciliosus
Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus
Dusky Woodswallow Artamus cyanopterus
Little Woodswallow Artamus minor

Lowland Peltops Peltops blainvillii
Mountain Peltops Peltops montanus

Black Butcherbird Melloria quoyi

Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen

Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus
Silver-backed Butcherbird Cracticus argenteus
Black-backed Butcherbird Cracticus mentalis
Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis

Hooded Butcherbird Cracticus cassicus
Tagula Butcherbird Cracticus louisiadensis

Pied Currawong Strepera graculina
Black Currawong Strepera fuliginosa
Grey Currawong Strepera versicolor

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 24

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