Australasian Figbird

Everyday here I identify new birds, for such a birdlover its paradise, discovering more diversity here than anywhere I ever lived. I’m truly in bird heaven ❤ .

Yesterdays discovery, the male Australasian Figbird.

Sphecotheres vieilloti

As its name implies, the Australasian Figbird predominantly eats figs, although a wide variety of other fruits are eaten as well. Figbirds usually forage high in the canopy, sometimes in the company of Olive-backed Orioles. Large flocks may congregate noisily at prolifically fruiting trees, and remain until the supply of fruit is exhausted. The seeds of the figs often pass undigested through the gut of figbirds, so they are able to germinate, though in some cases they provide pigeons with a convenient source of food.


Figbirds are part of a worldwide family that includes the orioles, of which Australia has two other members (the Yellow and Olive-backed Orioles). Males have bare, red skin around the eye, contrasting against a black crown and grey neck and throat. The remainder of the body is olive-green, except for a white under-tail area. Females have grey skin around the eye and lack distinctive head markings. They are brown-green above and dull-white below, streaked with brown. Both sexes have a blackish bill. There are two distinct colour forms of the males of this species. Males north of Proserpine in Queensland have a yellow front.

Similar Species

Figbirds have a blackish bill, which easily distinguishes the species from the similar Olive-backed Oriole, which has a reddish bill. Both of the Australian orioles also lack the Figbird’s bare eye skin and have red eyes (adults). The Figbird tends to be more gregarious than either of the orioles, living semi-colonially.


The Figbird occurs across coastal regions of northern and eastern Australia from the Kimberley region in Western Australia around to the New South Wales/Victoria border.


The Figbird lives in rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests, but is often found in urban parks and gardens, particularly those with figs and other fruit-producing trees.


Figbirds feed in flocks, often of around 20 birds that are prepared to fly to isolated trees that are suitable for foraging. Figs are a particularly popular food item, although they will feed on most soft fruits and berries in canopy trees. Insects are also important components of their diet.


The gregarious behaviour of Figbirds is maintained in the breeding season, with small groups of birds nesting semi-colonially in adjoining canopy trees. The nest is cup-shaped and built of vine tendrils and twigs. It is supported by its rim from the horizontal fork of an outer branch of the canopy, up to 20 m above the ground. Both males and females incubate the eggs and feed the young.


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