Artamidae is a family of passerine birds found in Australia, the Indo-Pacific region, and Southern Asia. It includes 24 extant species in six genera and three subfamilies: Peltopsinae (with one genus, the peltops), Artaminae (with one genus, the woodswallows) 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 in this family are known for their beautiful song. Their feeding habits vary from nectar sucking (woodswallows) to predation on small birds (pied currawong).
Temporal range: Early Miocene to present
|Pied butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis)|
The family Artamidae was introduced by the Irish zoologist Nicholas Aylward Vigors in 1825. The Artamids are part of the Malaconotoidea superfamily, a lineage which is widespread through Australasia and consists of a vast diversity of omnivorous and carnivorous songbirds. Artamids has been divided over time into two subfamilies. With few studies and dispute on the inclusion of Cracticidae within the family Artamidae, it appears they have been placed in this respective joint position due to lack of evidence or knowledge. Jerome Fuchs and colleagues extensively analysed both the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA of the Artamid family. The results suggested that the group may have existed in Australasia for 33.7 to 45 million years, dating back to the late Eocene 
Kurrartapu is a fossil species known from a proximal tarsometatarsus from the Early Miocene at Riversleigh in central Queensland. It was around the same size as the black butcherbird and had features in common with Strepera and Cracticus.
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, which lives alone or in a single pair, to the white-breasted woodswallow, which 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), watercourses, playing fields, pastoral land and paperbark mangroves (butcher birds). Some species have adapted to urban landscapes where they contend with fragmented and degraded remnants of native vegetation.
Artamids are a diverse family showing a notable variation in size and shape. They range in size from the short stocky Fiji woodswallow Artamus mentalis and the Ashy woodswallow Artamus fuscus, both of which are around 19 centimetres (7.5 in) in length and weigh about 40 grams (1.4 oz), to the larger grey currawong Strepera versicolour, which measures up to 50 cm (20 in) and weighs up to 440 g (16 oz).
The beaks of artamids are strong and robust, sometimes known as a generalist beak. Like falcons, some of the subfamily Cracticinae possess a sharp projection along the upper mandible, with a corresponding notch on the lower mandible. This hook-like tooth is used to catch and fatally sever the bodies of insects, lizards and small mammals. A trait of artamids (and all passerines) is that it possesses an anisodactyl foot arrangement: three toes are directed forward and one toe directed backward, enabling them to perch on horizontal objects such as tree branches and power lines.
Because they possess a syrinx, Artamids, in particular the pied butcherbird, the pied currawong and the Australian magpie, are able to create subtle songs. Uniquely among other perching birds, some woodswallows possess special feathers called powder down. The tips of the barbules on powder down feathers disintegrate, forming fine particles of keratin, which appear as a powder, or "feather dust", among the feathers and spread when preening. The plumage of the Artamids is relatively dull, most birds showing a combination of greys, earthy browns, blacks and patches of white. There is seldom sexual dimorphism in plumage, but when it occurs the males are brighter and the females appear dull or resemble juveniles. In many species juveniles have a distinctly duller plumage. The notarium, a fused vertebra of the shoulder in birds that helps brace the chest against the forces generated by the wings, is a distinctive osteological trait that has evolved repeatedly in the passerines including the family Artamadae.
Members of the Artamidae, especially the woodswallows, have been known to cluster together during the night and day. Accounts have appeared in literature from the earliest days of ornithological documentation in Australia. The habit of clustering is believed to serve two purposes: retaining body heat during cooler weather and as a social form of camouflage. Another unusual behaviour exhibited by an Artamid is the swooping on humans by magpies. While there is not much information on this behaviour, previous studies have suggested that magpie attacks on humans may be strongly influenced by hormone levels. For example, recent investigations indicate that the stress hormone corticosterone may cause magpie aggression and swooping.
All are omnivorous to some degree: the butcherbirds mostly eat meat; Australian magpies usually forage through short grass looking for worms and other small creatures; currawongs are true omnivores, taking fruit, grain, meat, insects, eggs and nestlings and woodswallows feed on insects and nectar.  Most are opportunistic feeders, such as the woodswallows, taking advantage of the flowering plants such as the silky oak Grevillea robusta, box mistletoe Amyema miquelii, and the long flowering stalks of Xanthorrhoea spp. or insects such as cockroaches or spiders eaten by the black butcherbird. Bigger species such as the grey currawong prey on many vertebrates, including frogs, lizards such as skinks, and juveniles of smaller birds such as the native eastern spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris or the introduced house sparrow Passer domesticus. The evolution of vertical feeding zones (feeding strategies subdividing into vertical space, e.g. upper, mid- and ground canopy) is noted among the Artamidae. While species will sometimes overlap vertical terrains, most woodswallows use the upper canopy, feeding on insects and pollen, while magpies and currawongs tend to use the ground or swoop down from the mid-story pouncing on their food. Being accomplished in extractive foraging is another trait of the Artamidae; although they are opportunistic feeders they are very methodical foragers, often following a set routine.
With developments occurring more regularly the most critical threat to the artamids is habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation. This loss of habitat reduces vegetation corridors (connective parcels of vegetation) that are used for feeding, breeding and safely travelling. After fragmentation, habitats are often too small or are limited by the construction of roads. These barriers cause population stresses and species can become vulnerable to localised extinction. Habitat loss and fragmentation can force species into urbanised habitats that impose their own dangers such as cars. Roadkill is considered to contribute significantly to the population decline of many bird species, especially opportunistic feeders like the Artimidae, which often unconsciously swoop down on an insect without seeing an oncoming car.
In Australia introduced species have caused the greatest number of extinctions. Exotic feral animals such as cats can have a negative effect on Artamids. Ground-foraging species such as the magpie often fall prey to cats in urban environments.
The Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) is a medium-sized black and white passerine bird native to Australia and southern New Guinea. Although once considered to be three separate species, it is now considered to be one, with nine recognised subspecies. A member of the Artamidae, the Australian magpie is placed in its own genus Gymnorhina and is most closely related to the black butcherbird (Melloria quoyi). It is not, however, closely related to the European magpie, which is a corvid.
The adult Australian magpie is a fairly robust bird ranging from 37 to 43 cm (14.5 to 17 in) in length, with distinctive black and white plumage, gold brown eyes and a solid wedge-shaped bluish-white and black bill. The male and female are similar in appearance, and can be distinguished by differences in back markings. The male has pure white feathers on the back of the head and the female has white blending to grey feathers on the back of the head. With its long legs, the Australian magpie walks rather than waddles or hops and spends much time on the ground.
Described as one of Australia's most accomplished songbirds, the Australian magpie has an array of complex vocalisations. It is omnivorous, with the bulk of its varied diet made up of invertebrates. It is generally sedentary and territorial throughout its range. Common and widespread, it has adapted well to human habitation and is a familiar bird of parks, gardens and farmland in Australia and New Guinea. This species is commonly fed by households around the country, but in spring a small minority of breeding magpies (almost always males) become aggressive and swoop and attack those who approach their nests.
Over 1000 Australian magpies were introduced into New Zealand from 1864 to 1874 but have subsequently been accused of displacing native birds and are now treated as a pest species. Introductions also occurred in the Solomon Islands and Fiji, where the birds are not considered an invasive species. The Australian magpie is the mascot of several Australian sporting teams, most notably the Collingwood Magpies, the Western Suburbs Magpies and Port Adelaide Magpies.Black-backed butcherbird
The black-backed butcherbird (Cracticus mentalis) is a species of bird in the family Artamidae.
It is found in southern New Guinea and Cape York Peninsula.Black butcherbird
The black butcherbird (Melloria quoyi, also known as Cracticus quoyi) is a species of butcherbird in the family Artamidae.
It is found in Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forest, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest, and subtropical or tropical mangrove forest.
Evidence was published in a 2013 molecular study which showed that it was the sister taxon to the Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen). The ancestor to the two species is thought to have split from the other butcherbirds between 8.3 and 4.2 million years ago, during the late Miocene to early Pliocene, while the two species themselves diverged sometime during the Pliocene (5.8–3.0 million years ago).Butcherbird
Butcherbirds are magpie-like birds, most found in the genus Cracticus, but the black butcherbird is placed in the monotypic genus Melloria. They are native to Australasia. Together with three species of currawong and two species of peltops, butcherbirds and the Australian magpie form the subfamily Cracticinae in the family Artamidae.
Butcherbirds are large songbirds, being between 30 and 40 cm (12–16 in) in length. Their colour ranges from black-and-white to mostly black with added grey plumage, depending on the species. They have a large, straight bill with a distinctive hook at the end which is used to skewer prey. They have high-pitched complex songs, which are used to defend their essentially year-round group territories: unlike birds of extratropical Eurasia and the Americas, both sexes sing prolifically.Butcherbirds are insect eaters for the most part, but will also feed on small lizards and other vertebrates. They get their name from their habit of impaling captured prey on a thorn, tree fork, or crevice. This "larder" is used to support the victim while it is being eaten, to store prey for later consumption, or to attract mates.
Butcherbirds are the ecological counterparts of the shrikes, mainly found in Eurasia and Africa, which are only distantly related, but share the "larder" habit; shrikes are also sometimes called "butcherbirds". Butcherbirds live in a variety of habitats from tropical rainforest to arid shrubland. Like many similar species, they have adapted well to urbanisation and can be found in leafy suburbs throughout Australia. They are opportunistic, showing little fear and readily taking food offerings to the point of becoming semi-tame.
Female butcherbirds lay between two and five eggs in a clutch, with the larger clutch sizes in more open-country species. Except in the rainforest-dwelling hooded and black butcherbirds, cooperative breeding occurs, with many individuals delaying dispersal to rear young. The nest is made from twigs, high up in a fork of a tree. The young will remain with their mother until almost fully grown. They tend to trail behind their mother and "squeak" incessantly while she catches food for them.Corvida
The "Corvida" were one of two "parvorders" contained within the suborder Passeri, as proposed in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, the other being Passerida. Standard taxonomic practice would place them at the rank of infraorder.
More recent research suggests that this is not a distinct clade—a group of closest relatives and nothing else—but an evolutionary grade instead. As such, it is abandoned in modern treatments, being replaced by a number of superfamilies that are considered rather basal among the Passeri.
It was presumed that cooperative breeding—present in many or most members of the Maluridae, Meliphagidae, Artamidae and Corvidae, among others—is a common apomorphy of this group. But as evidenced by the updated phylogeny, this trait is rather the result of parallel evolution, perhaps because the early Passeri had to compete against many ecologically similar birds (see near passerine).Corvoidea
Corvoidea is a superfamily of birds in the order of Passeriformes. It contains the following families:
Paramythiidae: tit berrypecker and crested berrypeckers
Psophodidae: whipbirds, jewel-babblers and quail-thrushes
Platysteiridae: wattle-eyes and batiss
Tephrodornithidae: woodshrikes and allies
Pityriaseidae: Bornean bristlehead
Artamidae: butcherbirds, currawongs and Australian magpie (formerly in Cracticidae)
Rhagologidae: mottled whistler
Campephagidae: cuckooshrikes and trillers
Oreoicidae: Australo-Papuan bellbirds
Pachycephalidae: whistlers, shrike-thrushes, pitohuis and allies
Oriolidae: orioles, figbirds and †piopio (formerly Turnagridae)
Monarchidae: monarchs and allies
Corvidae: crows, magpies, and jays
Corcoracidae: white-winged chough and apostlebird
Paradisaeidae: birds of paradiseCracticinae
The Cracticinae, bellmagpies and allies, gathers together 12 species of mostly crow-like birds native to Australasia and nearby areas.
Historically, the cracticines – currawongs, Australian magpie and butcherbirds – were seen as a separate family Cracticidae and, according to the 2018 Cements List, they still are. With their 1985 DNA study, Sibley and Ahlquist recognised the close relationship between the woodswallows and the butcherbirds in 1985, and placed them in a Cracticini clade, now the family Artamidae. The two species of peltops were once placed with the monarch flycatchers but are now placed here.The cracticines have large, straight bills and mostly black, white or grey plumage. All are omnivorous to some degree: the butcherbirds mostly eat meat; Australian magpies usually forage through short grass looking for worms and other small creatures; and currawongs are true omnivores, taking fruit, grain, meat, insects, eggs and nestlings. The female constructs bulky nests from sticks, and both parents help incubate the eggs and raise the young thereafter.The cracticines, despite their fairly plain, utilitarian appearance, are highly intelligent and have extraordinarily beautiful songs of great subtlety. Particularly noteworthy are the pied butcherbird, the pied currawong and the Australian magpie.Currawong
Currawongs are three species of medium-sized passerine birds belonging to the genus Strepera in the family Artamidae native to Australasia. These are the grey currawong (Strepera versicolor), pied currawong (S. graculina), and black currawong (S. fuliginosa). The common name comes from the call of the familiar pied currawong of eastern Australia and is onomatopoeic. They were formerly known as crow-shrikes or bell-magpies. Despite their resemblance to crows and ravens, they are only distantly related to the corvidae, instead belonging to an Afro-Asian radiation of birds of superfamily Malaconotoidea.
The true currawongs are a little larger than the Australian magpie, smaller than the ravens (except possibly the little raven, which is only slightly larger on average), but broadly similar in appearance. They are easily distinguished by their yellow eyes, in contrast to the red eyes of a magpie and white eyes of Australian crows and ravens. Currawongs are also characterised by the hooked tips of their long, sharply pointed beaks.
They are not as terrestrial as the magpie and have shorter legs. They are omnivorous, foraging in foliage, on tree trunks and limbs, and on the ground, taking insects and larvae (often dug out from under the bark of trees), fruit, and the nestlings of other birds. They are distinguishable from magpies and crows by their comical flight style in amongst foliage, appearing to almost fall about from branch to branch as if they were inept flyers.Dusky woodswallow
The dusky woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus), is a bird species of forests and woodlands in temperate and subtropical regions, extending into tropical areas around the Atherton Tableland, in eastern and southern Australia.
The global population of the species has as yet not been formally confirmed, but it has been officially rated in the range of 'Least Concern', according to the BirdLife International in 2004. As such, the bird could be described as common in its local habitat.The name "woodswallow" is a misnomer as they are not closely related to true swallows. Instead, they belong to the family Artamidae, which also includes butcherbirds, currawongs and the Australian magpie.Great woodswallow
The great woodswallow (Artamus maximus), also known as the greater woodswallow, giant woodswallow or New Guinea woodswallow is a species of bird in the family Artamidae. As its name implies, it is the largest member of the genus Artamus, averaging 20 centimetres (7.87 in) in length and 61 grams (2.2 oz) in mass. In appearance the great woodswallow is very similar to the more widespread white-breasted woodswallow but can be distinguished by its darker black upper side plumage and by the presence of a semi-oval black patch below the throat.Ivory-backed woodswallow
The ivory-backed woodswallow (Artamus monachus) is a species of bird in the family Artamidae. It is endemic to Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.Kurrartapu
Kurrartapu johnnguyeni is an extinct species of bird in the Australian magpie and butcherbird family. It was described from Early Miocene material (a proximal tarsometatarsus) found at Riversleigh in north-western Queensland, Australia. It is the first Tertiary record of a cracticid from Australia. The size of the fossil material indicates that it was similar in size to the living black butcherbird. The generic name is a Kalkatungu language term for the Australian magpie. The specific epithet honours John Nguyen, the father of the senior describer.List of birds of Western Australia
The following is a list of birds sighted in Western Australia.Lowland peltops
The lowland peltops or clicking shieldbill (Peltops blainvillii) is a species of bird in the family Artamidae.
It is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.Malaconotoidea
Malaconotoidea is a superfamily of passerine birds. They contain a vast diversity of omnivorous and carnivorous songbirds widespread in Africa and Australia, many of which superficially resemble shrikes. It was defined and named by Cacraft and colleagues in 2004 and contains the bushshrikes (Malaconotidae), helmetshrikes (Prionopidae), ioras (Aegithinidae), vangas (Vangidae) and the Australian butcherbirds, magpies, currawongs and woodswallows (Artamidae). Molecular analysis in 2006 added the Bornean bristlehead to the group, though its position in the Malconotoidea is unclear. It was initially thought related to the butcherbirds and woodswallows but now is thought to be an early offshoot.In 2012, Jerome Fuchs and colleagues extensively analysed the Malaconotoidea (called by them Malaconotidea), using both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. The resulting tree suggested that the group originated in Australasia and prolifically diversified in Africa after an ancestor crossed to Africa between 45 and 33.7 million years ago during the late Eocene. This is based on the basal position of group comprising the woodswallows and butcherbirds and allies and (most likely) the boatbills. Complicating the picture is that some Malaysian species such as the Bornean bristlehead, flycatcher-shrikes, the Philentomas, and woodshrikes appear to be more closely related to African species.A cladistic study of the bony characteristics of the skulls of various Malaconotoidea and relatives, and focussing on vangas, published in 2008, found broad agreement in the inclusion of woodswallows, butcherbirds and vangas in Malaconotoidea, but also yielded some results at odds with other studies—the red-backed shrike, crested drongo and magpie-lark were nested within the group. The authors conceded that there were not enough data to conclude these species should be placed here.Tagula butcherbird
The Tagula butcherbird (Cracticus louisiadensis) is a species of bird in the family Artamidae.
It is endemic to Tagula Island in Papua New Guinea.White-backed woodswallow
The white-backed woodswallow or Bismarck woodswallow (Artamus insignis) is a species of bird in the family Artamidae.
It is endemic to Papua New Guinea.
Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.White-breasted woodswallow
The white-breasted woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus) is a small passerine bird which breeds from the Andaman Islands east through Indonesia and northern Australia. The name "woodswallow" is a misnomer as they are not closely related to true swallows. Instead, they belong to the family Artamidae, which also includes butcherbirds, currawongs and the Australian magpie.
The species was first described by Linnaeus in 1771, its specific epithet derived from the Ancient Greek words leucos 'white', and rhynchos 'bill'.Woodswallow
Woodswallows are soft-plumaged, somber-coloured passerine birds in the genus Artamus. The woodswallows are either treated as a subfamily, Artaminae, in an expanded family Artamidae (also including the subfamily Cracticinae), or as the only genus in that family (with the butcherbirds, currawongs, and allies placed in a separate family, Cracticidae). The generic name, which in turn gives rise to the family name, is derived from the Ancient Greek artamos, meaning butcher or murder. The name was given due to their perceived similarity to shrikes. A former common name for the group was "swallow-starlings".The woodswallows have an Australasian distribution, with most species occurring in Australia and New Guinea. The ashy woodswallow has an exclusively Asian distribution, ranging from India and Sri Lanka through South East Asia to China, and the most widespread species is the white-breasted woodswallow, which ranges from Peninsular Malaysia through to Australia in the south and Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The group reaches the easternmost extent of its distribution in Fiji with the endemic Fiji woodswallow.
Woodswallows are smooth, agile flyers with moderately large, semi-triangular wings. They are among the very few passerines birds that soar, and can often be seen feeding just above the treetops. One sedentary species aside, they are nomads, following the best conditions for flying insects, and often roosting in large flocks.
Although woodswallows have a brush-tipped tongue they seldom use it for gathering nectar.
The nests of woodswallows are loosely constructed from fine twigs, and both parents help rear the young.