The chirruping wedgebill (Psophodes cristatus) is a medium sized member of the Psophodes genus, which consists or four to five songbirds endemic to Australia. Commonly found in low shrublands in south-eastern inland Australia, the species is distinguished by its distinctive, chirruping call. The chirruping wedgebill and chiming wedgebill (Psophodes occidentalis) were considered one species until as late as 1973, when they were separated due to marked differences in their calls.
John Gould originally described P. cistatus and P. occidentalis as one species (Sphenostoma cristatum), and this remained common practice until c. 1973. The separation of the species at that date was based mainly on differences in song and range.
The chirruping wedgebill is a medium sized bird, measuring approximately 18–21 cm and weighing 31-64 g. Its bill is dark and wedge-shaped when mature, and horn-coloured when immature. It possesses a slim upright crest, and long rounded tail. Adult plumage consists of pale brown upperparts, with white/pale grey underparts. Flight feathers are edged with white, and the tail is coloured dark black-brown with a white tip. Immature individuals possess similar plumage, the only key differences being buff-tipped flight feathers, unlike the white tips of the mature individual.
This bird is often misidentified as the chiming wedgebill (Psophodes occidentalis). Key identifying features include the faint breast streaking, slightly longer tail, and repetitive chirruping call.
The distinctive call of this species is described as an Antiphonal duet. Accounts of the call differ slightly. Pizzey and Knight describe the male as calling ‘sitzi-cheeri’ (similar to the budgerigars rolling chirrup), while the female replies with an upward rolling ‘r-e-e-e-t CHEER’. The call is described by Simpson and Day, however, as “sparrow-like and repetitive. Male ‘chirrrp’, female response of ‘ee cheer’.”
Distribution and habitat
The chirruping wedgebill is found throughout south-eastern inland Australia, inhabiting low, open shrublands with acacia species. Distribution is patchy, but where found, the species is usually locally abundant. Though the species covers a large area, it is rarely found in the southern part of its range. It tends to favour areas with vegetation of bluebush, acacia stands, emu bush and lignum species.
The chirruping wedgebill is territorial throughout the year. Adults are generally sedentary, with small flocks of up to 20 birds being regularly recorded. Juvenile birds tend to be more widely dispersed, sometimes forming loose foraging flocks of up to 100 individuals, that wander over greater distances than the adults. The species is unobtrusive and reserved (though less shy than the chiming wedgebill), except when calling. While foraging, individuals make short flights (small flutters and glides) or run between cover. The species is non-migratory.
The species has several breeding seasons throughout the year: from March to May, and August to November, as well as after rain. The nest consists of a loose, shallow cup of grass, twigs and bark (lined with smaller, fine material). It is generally built in the fork of a dense tree, shrub or mistletoe, generally no more than three metres above the ground. Two to three blue-green eggs with sparse dark blotches are laid at a time. The eggs are of a tapered-oval shape, measuring approximately 24 x 17 mm. Incubation length is unknown. The life span of this species is approximately 6.4 years. It is not known if the sexes possess different roles in food collection or parenting.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Psophodes cristatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Del Hoyo, J; Elliot, A; Christie, D (2007). Handbook of the Birds of the World: Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-42-2.
- Boles, Walter.E. (1988). The Robins & Flycatchers of Australia. North Ryde, NSW, Australia: Angus & Robertson Australia. pp. 217–220. ISBN 0 207 15400 7.
- Officer, Hugh. R (1969). Australian Flycatchers And Their Allies. Melbourne, VIC. Australia: The Bird Observers Club. p. 103.
- Chapman, Graeme. "Chirruping Wedgebill Psophodes cristatus". Graeme Chapman, Natural History Photographer- Ornithologist. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- Pizzey, Graham; Knight, Frank (2012). The Field Guide To The Birds Of Australia (Ninth ed.). Sydney, NSW, Australia: Harper Collins Publishers Australia Pty Limited. p. 398. ISBN 9780732291938.
- Simpson, Ken; Day, Nicolas (2010). Field Guide to the Birds of Australia (Eighth ed.). Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Penguin Group. p. 216. ISBN 9780670072316.
- "Chirruping Wedgebill - Psophodes cristatus". Australian Bush Birds. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- Birdlife International (2016). "Chirruping Wedgebill Psophodes cristatus". Birdlife International. Retrieved 14 September 2016.