RFI identifying thornbills (se Australia)

Subject: RFI identifying thornbills (se Australia)
From: brian fleming <>
Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 20:55:53 +1100
I agree that Thornbills are very tricky little devils.
The Brown Thornbill has quite a large repertoire of song and chirrups among its regular bizzing and tizzing. It really has quite a sweet voice. And it often finishes a bout of churring and bizzing with a tiny little musical phrase - maybe three notes often in an upward inflection. This is a dead giveaway because as far as I know, Striated don't sing. Brown Thornbills are roughly the same colour - brownish tending to rufous at the rump -all over on the upper side. Browns like undergrowth and blackberry tangles and occasionally come to the ground.

Striateds tend to head up to the canopy to feed, and in the higher undergrowth, and as far as I can tell they prefer Stringybark and Peppermint woodland. But if you get a good side-on view, the cap is warm brown, the face is pale, or whitish, with the eye conspicuous, and the wings and back are greenish. Easy when you know how! (I don't claim 100% success). Their vocal repertoire seems limited to chirrs and buzzes.

I wish I could claim similar ability to distinguish Buff from Yellow-rumped, except that YR is quite brightly marked, conspicuously yellow rump and that spotted eyebrow, while Buff is less noticeable. I was once told "If in doubt, say Buff." I look forward to being enlightened.

Anthea Fleming


A question for list members.

I have a colleague who's fortunate to live in the wooded hills east of Melbourne and is trying to learn her bush birds, in particular the thornbills.

What are people's advice on how to quickly identify the following species, keeping in mind my colleague is a non-birdo (but a botanist).

Striated Thornbill
Brown Thornbill
Buff-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill

I'm looking for a 'table of features' or something similar that would have (say)
- foraging behaviour
- foraging habitat/height
- distinctive features of each species (call, eye colour...)

Does anyone remember whether the Birds Australia magazine (Wingspan) featured the thornbills?

The area concerned is tall forest near Mt Dandenong and the most common species of thornbill is probably the Brown I suspect.

Keen to hear list members thoughts.

Martin O'Brien
Wildlife Biologist - Threatened Species & Communities Section
Department of Sustainability and Environment
2/8 Nicholson St.,
East Melbourne  3002



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