Tasmanian Thornbill

Did you know?

Reverend Thomas J. Ewing (d.1876) for whom this bird is named was the headmaster of the Queen's Orphan Schools, Tasmania. John Gould (who first described the bird) stayed with Rev. Ewing during his visit to Tasmania in 1838-39.

Sweet musical warbling.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Maximum Size: 
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Breeding season: 
September to January
Clutch Size: 
Two or three.
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Tasmanian Thornbill is a medium sized thornbill very similar to the Brown Thornbill A. pusilla. The two are best told apart by the adage that the Tasmanian Thornbill "wears the white underpants". The adult Tasmanian Thornbill is olive-brown above with rufous-brown suffusion to the forehead; dull rufous-brown rump-patch and prominent rufous brown panel on folded wings. The underparts are off-white with diffuse fine dusky mottling on chin, throat and breast, and clean white undertail-coverts. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but newly fledged birds are fluffier.

Similar species: 

Easily confused with Brown Thornbill A. pusilla which also occurs in Tasmania. The principal differences are (i) the undertail-coverts of the Tasmanian Thornbill are clear white whereas those of the Brown Thornbill are duller buffish; (ii) the edges of the primary feathers in the wing are a rich rufous -brown whereas the brown Thornbill has much les contrasting buff edges to the wing feathers; (iii) the tail is longer in the Tasmanian Thornbill; (iv) the chin, throat and breast are greyer; and (v) The forehead of the Tasmanian Thornbill shows little of the scalloping present in the Brown Thornbill.

Where does it live?

Endemic to Tasmania and the islands of Bass Strait.


Occupies similar habitat to that of the Brown Thornbill but somewhat damper. Understory of dense eucalypt forest, temperate rainforest with a well developed scrub understorey. Typically found in wet gullies rather than dry slopes.

Seasonal movements: 

The Tasmanian Thornbill is sedentary.

What does it do?

Primarily insectivorous but eats seeds occasionally. The Tasmanian Thornbill is typically arboreal and forages at all levels in the forest, including on the ground. Gleans food from the leaves and the bark of trunks, branches and twigs.


Breeds from September to January. Nests low in dense vegetation such as bracken and dense shrubs. The nest is a neat rounded dome usually covered by a hinged flap that almost covers the entrance hole. The nest is made of green moss, grass and fine strips of bark. 3 to 4 eggs are laid shortly after completion of the nest. Incubation is by the female alone however it is not known how long the eggs are incubated for nor the period from hatching to independence ( a challenge for a keen Tasmanian birdwatcher?).

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