Tasmanian Native-hen

Did you know?

The Tasmanian Native-Hen was widespread on the Australian mainland until about 4700 years ago when it became extinct, possibly through predation by newly arrived Dingo and increasing aridity of the continent.

14 separate calls have been identified. Characteristic call is a loud rasping "see-saw" and a number of grunts.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Average weight: 
1 300g
Breeding season: 
August - November
Clutch Size: 
Three to nine (normally five to eight)
22 days
Nestling Period: 
56 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

A large, heavy bodied, flightless bird found only in Tasmania. It is similar in shape to the Black-tailed Native-hen Tribonyx ventralia but is larger. The Tasmanian Native-hen has a large yellow bill, a red eye, brown head, back and wings and is slate grey on its underparts. The contrasting black tail is long and narrow and is flattened along the mid-line of the bird . The legs are powerful and grey in colour. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but duller.

Similar species: 

The Black-tailed Native-hen is similar in general shape and colouration but is rather smaller and has red legs and a yellow eye-ring. The Black-tailed Native-hen is usually found only on the Australian mainland but has been found as a vagrant in Tasmania.

Where does it live?

North and East Tasmania.


Open pastures, grasslands, and other cleared areas, typically close to permanent or seasonal freshwater such as swamps, dams and rivers. They prefer wetlands with significant amounts of cover in which they can hide. Frequently seen at Peter Murrell Nature Reserve just south of Hobart.

Seasonal movements: 

These birds are generally sedentary in permanent territories. Young may disperse at end of first year up to about 17 months.

What does it do?

Seeds, leaves, and vegetation and a few insects. Tasmanian Native-Hens feed during the day and usually forage on the ground.


Throughout the year 2 or 3 birds (sometimes more) form an intergrated breeding group with young up to 1 year within a permanent territory. Tasmanian Native-hens may be monogamous or polygamous (usually polyandrous). All the male birds in the group breed with 1 or more females in the group. Both sexes participate in nest building, incubating and tending chicks. Eggs are laid in an egg nest typically between August and Novenber but this may vary significantly depending upon seasonal conditions. The egg nest is usually built on the ground or over water from grass, reeds or herbage. Young are brooded at night (and sometimes during the day) in one of a number of nursery nests built in a more exposed position. Nursery nests are usually bulkier and untidier than egg nests. From 3 to 9 (but usually 5 to 8) eggs are laid. These eggs are incubated for about 22 days. Parents feed the chicks in decreasing amounts up to 8 weeks .

Living with us

Occurs around farm dams. May take fruit from gardens and orchards.

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