"Dasyornis" redirects here. This was also used by Richard Lydekker for the prehistoric pseudotooth bird genus Dasornis in error.
Rufous Bristlebird - Port Campbell - Victoria S4E5020 (22198525590)
Rufous bristlebird (Dasyornis broadbenti)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Meliphagoidea
Family: Dasyornithidae
Sibley & Ahlquist, 1985
Genus: Dasyornis
Vigors & Horsfield, 1827

Dasyornis brachypterus
Dasyornis broadbenti
Dasyornis longirostris
Dasyornis walterbolesi

The bristlebirds are a family of passerine birds, Dasyornithidae. There are three species in one genus, Dasyornis. The family is endemic to the south-east coast and south-west corner of Australia.[1] The genus Dasyornis was sometimes placed in the Acanthizidae or, as a subfamily, Dasyornithinae, along with the Acanthizinae and Pardalotinae, within an expanded Pardalotidae, before being elevated to full family level by Christidis & Boles (2008).[2][3]

Taxonomy and systematics

Taxa accepted or described by Schodde & Mason (1999)[4] include, with their estimated conservation status:

  • Eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus)
    • D. brachypterus brachypterus – endangered
    • D. brachypterus monoides – critically endangered
  • Rufous bristlebird (Dasyornis broadbenti)
    • D. broadbenti broadbenti – lower risk (least concern)
    • D. broadbenti caryochrous – lower risk (near threatened)
    • D. broadbenti litoralis (western rufous bristlebird) – extinct
  • Western bristlebird (Dasyornis longirostris) – endangered

Once placed within various Northern Hemisphere lineages (such as Old World warblers or Old World flycatchers), the Dasyornithidae’s closest relatives are now known to be Australian endemics such as the pardalotes and honeyeaters. Although their exact position within the Australasian basal lineages of passerines is not fully resolved, Marki et al.’s 2017[5] study, the first to sample and sequence molecular data for all three species of bristlebirds, placed them within the ecologically diverse infra-order Meliphagides (formerly known as Meliphagoidea). This lineage consists of five families: Maluridae (fairywrens and allies), Acanthizidae (thornbills and gerygones), Meliphagidae (honeyeaters), Pardalotidae (pardalotes) and Dasyornithidae (bristlebirds).[6] While other families within this grouping are highly speciose e.g. the Meliphagidae (honeyeaters) - 187 species, Dasyornis broadbenti, D. brachypterus' and D. longirostris are only three known species of bristlebirds. Marki et al. found strong support for D. broadbenti' as sister lineage to D. brachypterus and D. longirostris, having diverged from its relatives in the mid-Miocene ca.13 Mya and that D. brachypterus and D. longirostris diverged in the early Pliocene, ca. 5 Mya. They infer from this that genetic divergences within the family may be greater than their similar morphologies might suggest and urge denser sampling to explore the possibility of overlooked cryptic species.


Bristlebirds are long-tailed, sedentary, ground-frequenting birds. They vary in length from about 17 cm to 27 cm, with the Eastern Bristlebird the smallest, and the Rufous Bristlebird the largest, species. Their colouring is mainly grey with various shades of brown, ranging from olive-brown through chestnut and rufous, on the plumage of the upperparts. The grey plumage of the underparts or the mantle is marked by pale dappling or scalloping.[7] The common name of the family is derived from the presence of prominent rictal bristles[2] - three stiff, hair-like feathers curving downwards on either side of the gape. This feature distinguishes them from the scrub-birds, to which they are similar in appearance although not closely related. The bristles, which are conspicuous in many birds that like the bristlebirds forage for insects in dark locations, may serve a tactile function in locating or manipulating prey.

Distribution and habitat

Eastern Bristlebirds were first seen by Europeans in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) when Latham first described the species for science in 1801. According to Gould, they were "to be found throughout New South Wales in all places suitable to its habits, although, from the recluse nature of its disposition, it is a species familiar to few, even of those who have long been resident in the colony." [8] After two centuries of European colonisation, two of the three species of bristlebirds are endangered (see Status and Conservation), and all have restricted and disjunct ranges.[4] Their distributions are non-overlapping, with the Western Bristlebird, inhabiting a tiny area of dense heathland on the south-west coast of Western Australia, the most specialised. On the east coast, the Eastern Bristlebird occupies a wider range of habitats in relict pockets of far south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales, and coastal fringes south of Sydney to the Victorian border. The Rufous Bristlebird's range is dense coastal shrub and heathland in far south-west Victoria and extreme east South Australia. The least-shy member of the family, the newly discovered subspecies caryochrous, occurs in open eucalpyus forest with dense understorey in the Otway range, but is also found in car parks, tracks and gardens along the edges of its dense habitat.[2] Gould's description of the Eastern Bristlebird's habitat as "reed-beds and thickets, particularly such as are overgrown with creepers and vegetation" captures the density of coastal heath scrub and grasslands favoured by the Dasyornithidae, although not the fire-dependence of these environments, which require burning to prevent the trees shading out the grass component.

Behaviour and ecology

Western, eastern and rufous bristlebirds

Often described as shy, elusive or secretive, they scamper through the thickest vegetation on strong legs, sometimes with their tails held partly erect.[1] They preferentially run to avoid danger, but are capable of flying short distances on their short rounded wings. They are more often heard than seen, singing in sweet and resonant voices with a distinctive metallic character. It is usually the male that sings. The song is thought to be territorial in nature and is often made from on top of a log or shrub to better carry in the air. Diurnal, nothing is known of their roosting behaviour except that it is in dense thickets.

They generally occur in pairs, but their social structure has not been studied closely. Most of the food is found by foraging on the ground. Birds forage in pairs, making small contact calls to keep in touch, and constantly flicking their tails whilst moving. The major part of the diet is composed of insects and seeds. Spiders and worms are also taken, and birds have been observed drinking nectar as well.

The breeding behaviour of bristlebirds is poorly known. They are thought to mostly be monogamous and defend a territory against others of the same species.The Western Bristlebird breeds July–October, the two eastern species between August and February. All are single-brooded, and eastern and Rufous Bristlebirds will lay replacement clutches if the first one is lost, an important factor in the success of captive breeding programs being undertaken in Queensland for the critically endangered northern subspecies monoides of the Eastern bristlebird.[9]

The nest is constructed by the female in low vegetation and is a large ovoid dome with a side entrance with finer grasses for lining. Two eggs are laid, white or dullish whitish-brown or pink dotted with purplish-brown spots.[10] As far as is known only the female incubates the clutch, for a period of between sixteen and twenty-one days. Both sexes feed the young. The nestling stage is known to be long, eighteen to twenty-one days.

Status and conservation

With two of the three recognised species already on the IUCN Red List, the Dasyornithidae are increasingly vulnerable to habitat destruction by ever more fierce and frequent bush fires. The Rufous Bristlebird D. broadbenti is still comparatively common in its core areas of western Victoria and far south-east South Australia, but the ranges of the other two species have contracted since European settlement to relict populations found almost entirely within national parks and reserves with appropriate weed eradication and fire management regimes. The latter are essential for bristlebirds: with their small rounded wings they are poor flyers and prefer to run than to fly. Large and unchecked bushfires can cause local extinctions, compounding population fragmentation. Recent research suggests total avoidance of fire in the management of Western and Rufous Bristlebird populations. Eastern bristlebirds require a more delicate balance with some degree of burning needed to promote regeneration of the grasslands they favour but too much destroying both habitat and potential refugia where populations can shelter until vegetation recovers.[11] Habitat loss since European settlement from land-clearing for agriculture and extensive housing development along coastal strips in more recent times also threatens bristlebird survival. The western subspecies litoralis of the Rufous Bristlebird, once found in dense impenetrable shrub-land on the coastal dunes of extreme south-west Western Australia is probably extinct.[2][7][12]


  1. ^ a b Del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A. & Christie D. (editors). (2006). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-42-2
  2. ^ a b c d Higgins, P.J.; & Peter, J.M. (eds). (2003). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Oxford University Press: Melbourne. ISBN 0-19-553762-9
  3. ^ Christidis, Les; & Boles, Walter E. (2008). Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6
  4. ^ a b Schodde, R.; & Mason, I.J. (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne. ISBN 0-643-06456-7
  5. ^ Marki, Petter Z.; Jønsson, Knud A.; Irestedt, Martin; Nguyen, Jacqueline M.T.; Rahbek, Carsten; Fjeldså, Jon (2017). "Supermatrix phylogeny and biogeography of the Australasian Meliphagides radiation (Aves: Passeriformes)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 107: 516–529. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2016.12.021. ISSN 1055-7903. PMID 28017855.
  6. ^ Christidis, Les; Norman, Janette A. (2010). "Evolution of the Australasian songbird fauna". Emu - Austral Ornithology. 110 (1): 21–31. doi:10.1071/mu09031. ISSN 0158-4197.
  7. ^ a b Pizzey, Graham; & Knight, Frank. (2003). The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. HarperCollins. 7th edn. ISBN 0-207-19821-7
  8. ^ Gould, John (1865). Handbook to the Birds of Australia Vol.1. London :: Published by the author. pp. 342–4. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.50403.
  9. ^ Yorke, P. (ed) (November 2003). Bristlebird Bulletin 3. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Kenmore, Queensland. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Cayley, Neville W. (1973). What bird is that? A guide to the birds of Australia / (3rd ed.). Sydney: Angus & Robertson Ltd. pp. 197–8. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.106765. ISBN 978-0207941306.
  11. ^ Baker, J. (2000). "The Eastern Bristlebird: Cover-dependent and Fire-sensitive". Emu - Austral Ornithology. 100 (4): 286–298. doi:10.1071/mu9845. ISSN 0158-4197.
  12. ^ Morcombe, Michael. (2000). Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish: Queensland. ISBN 1-876282-10-X
Barren Grounds Bird Observatory

The Barren Grounds Bird Observatory was a bird observatory situated in the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve on the escarpment of the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. It was opened in 1982 by Birds Australia as Australia's third bird observatory, in order to provide a base for the study and enjoyment of the birds of the area. The natural vegetation of Barren Grounds is heathland. Birds of note include the eastern ground parrot and the eastern bristlebird. In 2004, for basically economic reasons, the observatory was closed and Birds Australia's association with Barren Grounds ended.

Barrengarry Nature Reserve

Barrengarry Nature Reserve is a protected area of 21 hectares, situated in Barrengarry in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. The nearest town is Kangaroo Valley. The reserve endeavours to protect rainforest communities and eucalyptus forest. As well as populations of threatened species such as the eastern bristlebird, brush-tailed rock-wallaby and long-nosed potoroo.

Beecroft Peninsula

Beecroft Peninsula is the northern headland of Jervis Bay, on Australia's east coast. On the western and southern sides of the peninsula steep sandstone cliffs rise out of the ocean, up to 91 metres at its southernmost point, Point Perpendicular. White sandy beaches are found along the northern, eastern and southern sides interspersed with numerous intertidal reefs.

The Beecroft Peninsula encompasses an area of about 5250 hectares just south of the town of Currarong, about 200 kilometres south of Sydney.

The historic Point Perpendicular Lighthouse, and its grounds, constructed in 1899 at Point Perpendicular, is the southern tip of the peninsula at the northern entrance to Jervis Bay.

A large part of the Beecroft Peninsula, about 4200 hectares, is under the administration of the Australian Defence Force for use as a live-firing range called the Beecroft Weapon Range. Access to this weapons range is restricted to the public at certain times.

Ben Boyd National Park

Ben Boyd National Park is a national park in New South Wales, Australia, 578 km (359 mi) south of Sydney.

Conondale National Park

Conondale National Park is 130 km north of Brisbane in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland near the town of Conondale in the south east Queensland bioregion. The park covers an area of 35,648 hectares protecting large areas of subtropical rainforest, woodlands, wet and dry sclerophyll forest including Queensland's tallest tree. The park contains areas of regenerating forest which have been previously logged; areas of forest plantations also border the park. The park is currently managed by the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sports and Racing (NPRSR) under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.Since the 1860s the Conondale region has been impacted by land clearing for agriculture, mining and logging, today the park is a refuge for many species now rare and threatened. Threatened species such as the plumed frogmouth, giant barred frog, Conondale crayfish, spotted-tailed quoll, Gympie nut and richmond birdwing butterfly have been recorded in the park and are currently targeted for conservation management to mitigate threats to their survival. Species of interest include the southern gastric brooding frog which mysteriously disappeared in 1981 and is presumed extinct.

Conondale Range

The Conondale Range is a mountain range in Queensland, located between Maleny, Kenilworth, Kilcoy and Jimna. The range is the most westerly part of the Sunshine Coast hinterland and part of the Great Dividing Range. The highest point on the range is Mount Langley reaching 868 m above sea level. This is also the highest point in the Brisbane River catchment.Lower foothills of the range around Kilcoy are used for grazing. Most of the steep forested slopes of the range are state forests and Conondale National Park. In the south, parts of Stony Creek are preserved in Bellthorpe National Park.

The mountains are the source of the Brisbane River. Creeks on the south of the range drain into the Stanley River and directly into Lake Somerset. To the north creeks flow into the Mary River.

Eastern bristlebird

The eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus) is a species of bird in the bristlebird family Dasyornithidae. It is endemic to Australia. Its natural habitats are temperate forests, temperate shrubland, and temperate grassland. It is threatened by habitat loss.

George Masters

George Masters (1837-1912) was a zoologist, active in Australia during the 19th century.

Kangaroo River Nature Reserve

The Kangaroo River Nature Reserve, part of the Kangaroo Valley Group of Nature Reserves, is a protected nature reserve that is located on the floor of the Kangaroo Valley in the Southern Highlands and South Coast regions of New South Wales in eastern Australia. The reserve is situated approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) south of Sydney, 50 kilometres (31 mi) southwest of Wollongong and 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) northwest of Nowra. The reserve has a protective covenant placed upon it with purpose to ensure the protection of the natural heritage of this area. National parks in the area include the Morton National Park and the Budderoo National Park. Other nature reserves in the area include the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, and the Cambewarra Range, Barrengarry and Rodway nature reserves – the latter three part of the Kangaroo Valley Group of Nature Reserves.

Kendall Broadbent

Kendall Broadbent (born Horsforth, Yorkshire 26 August 1837; died Brisbane, Queensland 16 January 1911) was an English Australian naturalist and explorer. He arrived in Australia with his father in Victoria in 1852. He worked as a collector for François Louis Nompar de Caumont La Force, comte de Castelnau in Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria during 1873. In 1875 he was collecting for the British Museum (Natural History) around Port Moresby and from 1877-1879 he was collecting for Edward Pierson Ramsay of the Australian Museum. He then collected for the Queensland Museum between 1880 and 1893 before being appointed as an attendant at that museum in 1893, a post he remained in until the turn of the century. Broadbent collected the type specimen of the Rufous Bristlebird in 1858 and it was named Dasyornis broadbenti in his honour. He is also commemorated in one of the common names of Batrachomoeus trispinosus, Broadbent's frogfish. While in New Guinea he contacted a fever which remained with him for the rest of his life and in 1872 he survived the shipwreck of the Maria near Hinchinbrook Island. He was said to have collected specimens on expeditions in every part of Australia as well as in New Guinea.

List of endemic birds of Australia

This article is one of a series providing information about endemism among birds in the world's various zoogeographic zones. For an overview of this subject see Endemism in birds.

Mount Barney (Queensland)

Mount Barney is a mountain within the Scenic Rim Region in south-east Queensland, Australia. It lies approximately 130 kilometres (81 mi) south-west of Brisbane, not far from the Queensland - New South Wales border, and forms part of the McPherson Range. It is a popular destination for bushwalkers and campers. Mount Barney is the sixth or seventh highest mountain in Queensland and is often regarded as one of the most impressive parts of the Scenic Rim. The mountain consists of two main peaks, (East Peak and the slightly higher West Peak), and smaller subsidiary peaks. East Peak is probably the most popular destination for bushwalkers.

The closest town is Rathdowney. Mount Barney is surrounded by other mountains including Mount Ballow, Mount May, Mount Ernest, Mount Maroon and Mount Lindesay. Logan River has its headwaters on the mountain.

Pauline Neura Reilly

Pauline Neura Reilly OAM (5 December 1918 – 22 April 2011) was an Australian ornithologist and author of children's books.

Rufous bristlebird

The rufous bristlebird (Dasyornis broadbenti) is one of three extant species of bristlebirds. It is endemic to Australia where three subspecies have been described from coastal southwestern Western Australia, southeastern South Australia and southwestern Victoria. Its natural habitat is coastal shrublands and heathlands. It is threatened by habitat destruction.

Sibley-Monroe checklist 12

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a landmark document in the study of birds. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern birds.

Waychinicup National Park

Waychinicup National Park is in Western Australia, 404 kilometres (251 mi) southeast of Perth and 65 kilometres (40 mi) east of Albany. The park is bordered by the Southern Ocean to the south, Mount Manypeaks Nature Reserve to the east, and agricultural land to the north. Its coastline runs between Normans Beach and Cheynes Beach, near Bremer Bay. Bald Island Nature Reserve is located offshore nearby. The park offers and array of landscapes, from the rugged coast to boulder-strewn hilltops. Tree-filled, deeply-incised valleys have freshwater streams flowing through them, with moss-covered boulders. Facilities provided include a camping area and bush toilet near the inlet of the Waychinicup River.

Western bristlebird

The western bristlebird (Dasyornis longirostris) is a species of bird in the family Dasyornithidae.

It is endemic to the coastal heaths of western Australia (east and west of Albany).

Western rufous bristlebird

The western rufous bristlebird (Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis), also known as the rufous bristlebird (western), the south-western rufous bristlebird or the lesser rufous bristle bird, is an extinct and little-known subspecies of the rufous bristlebird that was endemic to Western Australia.

Woakwine Conservation Park

Woakwine Conservation Park (formerly the Woakwine Conservation Reserve) is a protected area located in the Australian state of South Australia in the locality of Robe about 272 kilometres (169 mi) south-east of the state capital of Adelaide and about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) east of the town centre in Robe.The conservation park consists of land in the cadastral unit of the Hundred of Waterhouse which is described as allotments 3 and 5 of Deposited Plan No. 29451. It was proclaimed on 11 November 1993 as a conservation reserve under the Crown Lands Act 1929 with the name "Woakwine Conservation Reserve". On 16 September 2010, it was reconstituted as the Woakwine Conservation Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. As of 2018, it covered an area of 4.24 square kilometres (1.64 sq mi).The conservation park consists of a "consolidated dune ridge of shallow well-drained uniform sands" supporting a remnant area of mallee woodland typical of what once covered the "almost completely cleared" Woakwine Range. The woodland "varies from coastal mallee, to Blue Gum, and Pink Gum woodlands from north to south." The conservation park is divided into two parts by Drain L which drains water from Lake Hawdon North in the north-east to the ocean to the south-west.In 2000, the conservation park included animal species listed in the state's National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 as follows:

Painted buttonquail and rufous bristlebird are listed as vulnerable.

Red-necked wallaby, common wombat, beautiful firetail and peregrine falcon are listed as rare.The land was used for agricultural purposes up until the late 1970s and which included the clearing of vegetation and the grazing of stock.As of 2000, visitation was described as being "minimal" and as follows - "low impact recreational activities, including bushwalking, bird watching and natural history study".The conservation park is classified as an IUCN Category VI protected area.


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