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Michael Palin presents the secretive chowchilla from Queensland, Australia.

Michael Palin presents the secretive chowchilla from Queensland, Australia. The chowchilla gets its name from its song, which is one of the most distinctive sounds of the coastal rainforest of north-east Queensland. You're not likely to see the bird though because it spends its time skulking on the forest floor. Chowchillas belong to the family known as logrunners because they feed and nest on or near ground-level. They're stout thrush-like birds; the males are dark brown with a white chest and throat, whilst the female's throat is rusty-orange.

Chowchillas have been found to sing with different dialects in different areas. Within say, 50 hectares, all the family groups of pairs and non-breeding younger birds may share the same dialect. But in an adjacent area, the families may assemble some of their song components slightly differently. Over time, their song culture could change and a new dialect would be born.

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2 minutes

Chowchilla (Orthonyx spaldingii)

Webpage image courtesy of Tim Laman /

NPL Ref 01239484 © Tim Laman /

Recording of chowchilla by Mark B Robbins / Ref: ML 77590

This programme contains a wildtrack recording of the chowchilla kindly provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; recorded by Mark B Robbins on 6 Jan 1991; in Topaz, 10.0 km SE of Malanda, Queensland, Australia.


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