White-winged triller

Lalage tricolor (Swainson, 1825)

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Campephagidae

New Zealand status: Native

Conservation status: Vagrant

Other names: whitewinged triller, white winged triller

Geographical variation: Nil

White-winged triller. Adult male. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, January 2010. Image © Julian Robinson by Julian Robinson via Flickr, All Rights Reserved

White-winged triller. Adult male. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, January 2010. Image © Julian Robinson by Julian Robinson via Flickr, All Rights Reserved

The only white-winged triller known from New Zealand was a male found in a suburban garden on 26 February 1969. Fortunately it was the property of a Dunedin birder, Mr B. McPherson, who noted the unusual bird call, located and identified the bird. It was observed by a number of people, photographed, had its song recorded, and weathered a heavy snowfall and some unusually hard frosts before it was last seen on 21 June.

Identification

The Dunedin bird was described as slim and agile, a little smaller than a bellbird but moving easily amongst the foliage in a similar way. In breeding plumage males have a black cap that is solid to below the eye, continuing on to a black back and a grey rump. They have black wings and tail with a broad white wing bar on the shoulders and white tips to the wings. Underneath they are clean white from the chin to the base of the tail. In non-breeding plumage the crown and back become brown, they develop a diffuse pale stripe above the eye, and the breast and flanks become light buff brown grading to off white on the vent and belly. Females are similar to non-breeding males but have brown wings with buff markings. They have a black bill and legs.

Voice: the calls of the Dunedin bird were likened to a chaffinch and the song has been rendered “chiff-chiff-chiff-joey-joey-joey” ending with a canary-like trill.

Similar species: female chaffinch has a heavier bill and white outer tail feathers. Possible confusion species not yet recorded in New Zealand include varied triller (Lalage leucomela) and restless flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta).

Distribution and habitat

In Australia, white-winged trillers are widespread but most common in the south and east. They only occasionally stray to Tasmania. Northern populations may be resident but the southern birds are migratory with most birds moving north between February and April to northern Australia and returning August-September. They are also sometimes described as nomadic as numbers vary from year to year depending on the availability of water and food.

White-winged trillers are generally found in lightly timbered woodlands including sparsely wooded farmland.

New Zealand records

The only record of a white-winged triller from New Zealand was a male at McAndrew Bay, Dunedin, February to June 1969. This coincided with a notable influx to Victoria and Tasmania during 1968 and 1969.

Behaviour and ecology

White-winged trillers may be quite approachable. They may be seen singly, in pairs, or in small loose flocks especially on migration. Males are more conspicuous than females. They are active foragers and become more conspicuous swooping to take insects.

Food

White-winged trillers mainly eat insects taken from foliage or by flying to the ground. Also fruits, seeds and occasionally nectar.

Websites

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-winged_Triller

http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Lalage-sueurii

References

McPherson, B. 1973. The first record of a white-winged triller in New Zealand. Notornis 20: 46-48.

Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 1996. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. Viking, Auckland.

Higgins,P.J.; Peter, J.M.; Cowling, S.J. (eds) 2006. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 7, boatbill to starlings. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Recommended citation

Southey, I. 2013. White-winged triller. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

White-winged triller

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