Black-tailed Native-hen

Did you know?

The Black-tailed Native-hen is nomadic, taking advantage of temporary wetlands. When breeding conditions are good, large numbers of birds may suddenly arrive in an area, breed and then disappear again.

Usually silent, with a single sharp alarm call: 'kak'.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
August to December, and in response to rain.
Clutch Size: 
5 to 7 eggs
20 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Black-tailed Native-hen is a large, stout, dark, fleet-footed rail with an erect narrow black tail which is held folded. The bird is mainly brownish-grey, with white spots on the flanks. The bill and frontal shield is green, with an orange-red lower mandible ('jaw'). Legs and feet are bright pink. The eye is bright yellow. They are seen in pairs, parties and sometimes large groups.

Similar species: 

The Black-tailed Native-hen is similar in size and shape to the Dusky MoorhenG. tenebrosa, but has a more upright stance. The Dusky Moorhen has a white undertail, a red frontal shield and a yelllow-tipped red bill and yellow legs.

Where does it live?

The Black-tailed Native-hen is widespread throughout mainland Australia and vagrant in Tasmania and New Zealand.


The Black-tailed Native-hen is found near permanent or ephemeral terrestrial wetlands in low rainfall areas, in both fresh or brackish water.

Seasonal movements: 

The Black-tailed Native-hen is dispersive, with regular seasonal movements. Numbers may occasionally irrupt, determined by seasonal conditions and they may then use many habitats. Large numbers of Black-tailed Native-hens may arrive in an area then just as suddenly disappear again.

What does it do?

The Black-tailed Native-hen eats seeds, plant material and insects. It feeds on open ground near wetlands or at the edge of water and often feeds by running, then stopping, to stir up insects.


The Black-tailed Native-hen usually breeds near water in swamps, rank grasses or lignum. It is adapted to breeding rapidly when conditions are favourable. It makes a cup-shaped nest of stalks, twigs and leaves, lined with grasses and feathers. The downy young are greenish-black. Little is known about the behaviour of young birds.

Living with us

Black-tailed Native-hens are secure in Australia and may occur near urban areas and golf courses, especially when irrupting. Large numbers of birds may cause crop damage.

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