Skip links and keyboard navigation

Species profile—Artamus cinereus normani (black-faced woodswallow (Cape York Peninsula))


Animalia (animals) → Aves (birds) → Artamidae (woodswallows, currawongs, butcherbirds and magpie) → Artamus cinereus normani (black-faced woodswallow (Cape York Peninsula))

Sighting data

KML | CSV | GeoJson

Species details

Animalia (animals)
Aves (birds)
Artamidae (woodswallows, currawongs, butcherbirds and magpie)
Scientific name
Artamus cinereus normani Mathews, 1923
Common name
black-faced woodswallow (Cape York Peninsula)
WildNet taxon ID
Alternate name(s)
Cape York black-faced woodswallow
Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA) status
Least concern
Conservation significant
Pest status
Adults have an ashy-mid-grey coloured back, grey-brown wings and a brownish-black tail with a white tip. The crown is smoky grey with a pale grey breast and belly. They have a small, roughly triangular, patch of black over the eyes. In flight, the underwing of black-faced woodswallows (Cape York Peninsula) is pale grey-brown and under the tail is white. Juveniles are a buff, heavily streaked brown that is darkest on the wings. They have a white tipped tail. Their size is in the range of 18-20cm. (Rowley 1988; Pizzey & Knight 1997; Morcombe 2000).
This species has been found from central and south-western Cape York Peninsula, north of a line between Townsville and Karumba. They were common around Coen in the 1920s. Presently, the species has a similar range, but is now rarely recorded around Coen. Further south at Artemis Station, the number of flocks declined steadily between 1992 and 1999. Other subspecies occur across most of Australia except the coast and ranges of the south-east. The species is also found in Indonesia and New Guinea. (Blakers et al. 1984; Schodde & Mason 1999).
Distributional limits
0, 0
0, 0
Species environment
Black-faced woodswallows prefer drier open country, being found on open, nearly treeless tussock grass plains through to lightly wooded eucalypt woodland, acacia scrubland and spinifex. They are attracted to flowering melaleuca woodland. (Blakers et al. 1984; Storr 1984; Pizzey & Knight 1997; Schodde & Mason 1999).
Burrows and nests
Small flocks usually nest in the same spot each year. They build an open cup-shaped nest of thin twigs and dry plant stalks lined with fine, fibrous rootlets. Nests are suspended in thick foliage of a shrub or low tree and occasionally in the top of a hollow stump. They may be 0.8-5m above the ground. (Beruldsen 1980; Higgins et al. 2006).
Black-faced woodswallows are the focal species in mixed-species feeding flocks. They are sedentary (remaining in one area) to locally nomadic. They may occur as singles, pairs or loose flocks. During non-breeding season small flocks (6-20 birds) move over a large home range. They often nest in loose groups, with an average breeding group size of 3.3 birds. (Blakers et al. 1984; Ivison 1996; Pizzey & Knight 1997; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Rowley 2002).
This species reproduces between August and January, occasionally to May (October-January in north-east Queensland). They lay 2-5 eggs per clutch. These are incubated for 14-16 days and fledge in 18 days. They produce 1-2 broods per season. It is a co-operative breeder, often nesting in loose groups. Both sexes combine to build nests, incubate and feed the young. (Lavery et al. 1968; Beruldsen 1980; Blakers et al. 1984; Rowley 1988, 1999, 2002; Barrett et al. 2003).
The black-faced woodswallow feeds on a range of arthropods (especially grasshoppers, flies, spiders, centipedes and the larvae of butterflies, etc.). They occasionally feed on small reptiles and nectar. (Blakers et al. 1984; Rowley 2002; Recher & Davis 2005).
Threatening processes
Known : None confirmed.
Suspected : 1. Inappropriate fire regime resulting in increased density of woodland and loss of grassland (Garnett & Crowley 2000).
Status notes
Near Threatened (Garnett & Crowley 2000).
Management documents
The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000.
Contributors: David McFarland 26/10/2007; Danielle Hansen 16/10/2008; Wayne Martin 5/11/2008.
Barrett, G., Silcocks, A., Barry, S., Cunningham, R. & Poulter, R. (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union : Hawthorn East, Victoria.
Beruldsen, G. (1980). A Field Guide to Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds. Rigby : Adelaide.
Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F. & Reilly, P.N. (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. RAOU & Melbourne University Press : Melbourne.
Garnett, S.T. & Crowley, G. M. (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. Environment Australia : Canberra.
Higgins, P.J.; Peter, J.M. & Cowling, S.J. (Eds) (2006). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds. Vol. 7A: Boatbill to Larks. Oxford University Press : Melbourne.
Ivison, T. (1996). Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus. In : Finches, Bowerbirds & Other Passerines of Australia. (Ed. Strahan, R. ), pp. 230-231. Angus & Roberston : Sydney.
Lavery, H.J., Seton, D. & Bravery, J.A. (1968). Breeding seasons of birds in north-eastern Australia. Emu 68, 133-147.
McFarland, D.C. (2007). Taxon Profiles Version 2.0: Threatened And Priority Fauna Taxa In Queensland: Biology And Distribution. Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.
Morcombe, M. (2000). Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd, Archerfield.
Pizzey, G. & Knight, F. (1997). The Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus & Robertson : Sydney.
Recher, H.F. & Davis, W.E. (2005). A record of interspecific kleptoparasitism by an Australian passerine, the Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus. Corella 29, 13-14.
Rowley, I. (1988). Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus Vieillot, 1817. In : Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. (Eds Schodde, R. & Tidemann, S.C.), pp. 603. Reader's Digest : Sydney.
Rowley, I. (1999). Co-operative breeding by Black-faced Woodswallows Artamus cinereus. Corella 23, 63-66.
Rowley, I. (2002). Nesting by Black-faced Woodswallows Artamus cinereus in the wheatbelt of Western Australia. Corella 26, 65-69.
Schodde, R. & Mason, I.J. (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. CSIRO Publishing : Collingwood, Victoria.
Storr, G.M. (1984). Revised List of Queensland Birds. Records of the Western Australian Museum. Suppl. No. 19, 1-189.
Profile author
David McFarland (05/11/2008)

Other resources

Data source

This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0.

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

More species information

Get a list of species for your area or find other wildlife information.

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 May 2024