Did you know?

The species was given its unusual name by early settlers who noticed that it often accompanied feeding Superb Lyrebirds.

Loud, ringing whistled song with rising end
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Average weight: 
Breeding season: 
Aug - Mar
Clutch Size: 
1 - 2
20 days
22 days
Nestling Period: 
14 days
17 days
Conservation Status
Associated Plants
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

Pilotbirds are plump, large headed ground dwelling birds with dark brown on the upper body as well as on the head.  Their forehead is a contrasting rufous brown and they have a paler eye ring and amber eye. From chin to lower breast is buff-brown and finely scalloped in cinnomon.

Although these birds are more often seen than heard their loud call is a distinctive .…"guinea a week  guinea a week" and when singing the male may throw his head back until it almost touches his back.

Pilotbirds are usually seen singly, in twos and, occasionally in family parties typically hopping briskly over the forest floor and foraging on damp ground. They fly only rarely and reluctantly.

Similar species: 

The Eastern Bristlebird has a superficially similar appearance and call to the Pilotbird but is much larger with proportionally longer legs and a less rounded head.

The Rockwarbler is also similar but is smaller and slimmer with a much smaller head and a shorter square tipped tail.

Where does it live?

Pilotbirds are a common resident of mountain gullies, on the coast and inland to the Great Divide, from the Blue Mountains to eastern Victoria including Gippsland.


Pilotbirds are found in the ground level of wet forests on coastal mountain ranges and in moist gullies timbered with mature gumtrees and with a dense understorey of bracken, low shrubs or tree ferns.

Seasonal movements: 

Pilotbirds are described as sedentary or resident birds and are known as poor flyers. They make no known seasonal movements.

What does it do?

Pilotbirds only feed from the ground, often taking food uncovered by foraging Superb Lyrebirds as they scratch the forest floor. Their food is usually insects but occasionally includes seeds and fruits. They sometimes feed in company with White-browed Scrubwrens.

When feeding these birds flick their tail up and down and may use their feet to turn over large pieces of debris.


Pilotbirds nest in a bulky dome of twigs, bark and leaves hidden in vegetation on, or close to, the ground.

Only the female Pilotbird incubates and broods nestlings but the young are fed insects by both parents.


Living with us

Pilotbirds were formally more widespared but their range has been impacted by forest clearing which destroys their habitat.

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