During the breeding season, these birds are strongly territorial, and both sexes help defend the territory. In the non-breeding season, individuals are generally solitary, other than in a few more social species, such as some pitohuis, which are always encountered in small parties.

Most species appear to be sedentary or, at best, locally nomadic. The notable exception is the rufous whistler (Pachy-cephala rufiventris). Populations in the southeast of mainland Australia are strongly migratory. On her study site in the tablelands of northeastern New South Wales, Lynda Bridges found that birds arrived in early September and remained through summer, departing in April.

The name "whistler" is well earned: they and the shrike-thrushes are among the most outstanding avian songsters in this part of the world. Each species has a song that differs in its phrases yet is usually sufficiently characteristic to be immediately recognizable as belonging to a member of this family. The enthusiastic songs of whistlers are pitched higher than those of shrike-thrushes and are longer, but those of shrike-thrushes are the stronger and richer. Duetting has been recorded for at least two species of pitohui and one whistler. One of the most arresting sounds of inland Australia is the song of the crested bellbird. Its odd bell-like notes and ven-triloquial quality are distinctive. Shrike-tits songs lack the power and quality of these other birds.

During the breeding season, birds advertise territories with frequent, loud bursts of song. Birds are vocal during the rest of the year, but less regularly. Males, females, and even the young of many species are enthusiastic singers. Some whistlers have an interesting reaction to a loud, sudden noise, such as a rifle shot or roll of thunder: they burst into a short, loud outpouring of song.

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