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Species profile—Dasyornis brachypterus (eastern bristlebird)


Animalia (animals) → Aves (birds) → Dasyornithidae (bristlebirds) → Dasyornis brachypterus (eastern bristlebird)

Species details

Animalia (animals)
Aves (birds)
Dasyornithidae (bristlebirds)
Scientific name
Dasyornis brachypterus (Latham, 1801)
Common name
eastern bristlebird
WildNet taxon ID
Alternate name(s)
brown bristlebird
Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA) status
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) status
Conservation significant
Pest status
The eastern bristlebird is a small brown bird with a pale line above each eye and a tail measuring almost half of its total body length (21cm). The belly is grey-brown, the throat is whitish and the breast feathers have pale edges. Adult eastern bristlebirds weigh between 34-49g. This species has short wings, strong legs and distinct bristles in front of its eyes which are adaptations that allow it to live successfully in dense ground vegetation. (Smith 1988; Holmes 1989; Higgins & Peter 2002).
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Species environment
Within Queensland the eastern bristlebird is restricted to upland areas above 600m, predominantly inhabiting tall open forest or woodland with a dense grassy understorey close to rainforest areas, though one population occurs in montane heathland close to rainforest. It prefers habitat with structurally diverse ground cover including large areas of dense grass tussocks (particulary Sorghum), scattered small shrubs, logs and patches of tall ferns, woody herbs or tangled vines. This species is fire-sensitive, requiring at least a 10 year fire-free interval with nearby unburnt habitat such as rainforest to act as a fire refuge. (Holmes 1989; Kehl & Corben 1991; Bramwell et al. 1992; Lamb et al. 1993; Pyke et al. 1995; Baker 1997, 2000; NSWNPWS 2001; Stewart 2002; Higgins & Peter 2002).
Home range
No studies of home range for northern population, in central population home range in excess of 10ha have been recorded. Territory estimates for northern population range from 1-4ha.
Burrows and nests
Construct a globular shaped grass nest 30cm (9-90cm) above the ground concealed in dense vegetation such as Sorghum tussock or small dense shrubs. (Beruldsen 1980; Higgins & Peter 2002).
This species is diurnal (active by day), sedentary (remaining in one area), and largely terrestrial, spending most of their time in low dense vegetation, rarely flying or appearing in the open. Breeding pairs establish permanent territories of 1-4ha with calling birds 100-300m apart. Territorial behaviour may decline during the non-breeding season, with home ranges increasing to approximately 10ha (3-12ha) and overlap between individuals. Within coastal heathland habitats population densities of 3-4 birds per 10ha have been estimated. (Holmes 1989; Hartley & Kikkawa 1994; Baker 2001).
The eastern bristlebird lays eggs from August to February, northern populations mainly laying from August to October with a peak in September. Pairs generally produce 1 clutch of 2 eggs per season, with an incubation period of 14 days or more, and fledging after 11 days or more. It is thought that normally only 1 of the young will survive to fledging. In the wild adults may live for up to 6 years. (Beruldsen 1980; Storr 1984; Smith 1988; Holmes 1989; NSWNPWS 2001; Higgins & Peter 2002).
The bristlebird is a ground bird that collects most of its food from leaf litter and ground vegetation, though occasionally they will glean foliage or snatch flying insects. Their diet includes ants, beetles, crickets, seeds, small fruit, earthworms and possibly nectar. (Blakers et al. 1984; Holmes 1989; NSWNPWS 2001; Higgins & Peter 2002; Gibson & Baker 2004).
Unknown, possibly cats, foxes, dogs, pigs and native predators including Varanid lizards, Dasyurid mammals etc.
Parasites and pathogens
Threatening processes
Known : 1. Destruction of habitat for agriculture and forestry (Garnett 1992a,b).
2. Inappropriate fire regime (too frequent - loss of grass cover; too infrequent - replacement of grasses with dense shrub layer but see Baker 2000, Higgins & Peter 2002) (Kehl & Corben 1991; Pyke et al. 1995; Holmes 1997).
Suspected : 1. Invasion of habitat by exotic weeds (Lamb et al. 1993).
2. Impact of grazing on habitat by cattle, pigs and deer (Kehl & Corben 1991; Garnett 1992a,b).
3. Predation by foxes and feral cats (Garnett 1992a,b; QPWS 2001).
4. Disturbance of breeding birds leading to abandonment of nests (Holmes 1989).
5. Impact of drought conditions on food availability (Hartley & Kikkawa 1994).
6. Impact of feral pigs - disturbance of breeding birds, habitat destruction resulting in weed invasion, predation of eggs and young, and providing trails for other predators (Stewart 1998b).
7. Habitat damage and disturbance of breeding birds by recreational activities (QPWS 2001; Stewart 2002).
Status notes
Qld, NSW and Vic - Endangered. Commonwealth - Endangered. Using the IUCN (1994) criteria the eastern bristlebird is Endangered, with the northern population (SEQ and N NSW) being critically endangered with less than 30 birds.
Management documents
Stewart, D. 2002. Recovery plan for the northern population of the eastern bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus monoides 2001-2005. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.
Management recommendations
To prevent the eastern bristlebird from becoming extinct in Qld, considerable resources are required. The necessary actions required have been addressed in the recovery plan for the species.
Current programs projects
Currently the northern population of eastern bristlebirds is being monitored on a regular basis by DoE and NSW NPWS staff.
Contributors: David Stewart 17/04/1998; McFarland 26/10/2007; Danielle Hansen 17/07/2008; Wayne Martin 19/08/2008.
Bain, D. & McPhee, N. (2005). Resurveys of the Eastern Bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus in central-eastern New South Wales 1999-2001: their relationship with fire & observer competence. Corella 29, 1-6.
Baker, J. & Clarke, J. (1999). Radio-tagging the Eastern Bristlebird: methodology & effects. Corella 23, 25-32.
Baker, J. (1997). The decline, response to fire, status & management of the Eastern Bristlebird. Pac. Conserv. Biol. 3, 235-243.
Baker, J. (2000). The Eastern Bristlebird: cover-dependent & fire-sensitive. Emu 100, 286-298.
Baker, J. (2001). Population density & home range estimates for the Eastern Bristlebird at Jervis Bay, south-eastern Australia. Corella 25, 62-67.
Beruldsen, G. (1980). A Field Guide to Nests & Eggs of Australian Birds. Rigby: Adelaide.
Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F. & Reilly, P.N. (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. RAOU & Melbourne University Press: Melbourne.
Bramwell, M., Pyke, G., Adams, C. & Coontz, P. (1992). Habitat use by Eastern Bristlebirds in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Emu 92, 117-121.
Clarke, R. & Bramwell, M. (1998). The Eastern Bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus in East Gippsland, Victoria. Australian Bird Watcher 17, 245-253.
Garnett, S. (1992a). The Action Plan for Australian Birds. ANCA: Canberra.
Garnett, S. (1992b). Threatened & Extinct Birds of Australia. RAOU Report No. 82; RAOU & ANPWS: Melbourne.
Garnett, S.T. & Crowley, G. M. (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. Environment Australia: Canberra.
Hartley, S.L. & Kikkawa, J. (1994). The Population Management of the Eastern Bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus): Findings on the Biology, Threats & Management of the Eastern Bristlebird in Queensland & northern New South Wales. Final Report to the Department of Environment & Heritage.
Higgins, P.J. & Peter, J.M. (Eds) (2002). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds. Vol. 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Oxford University Press: Melbourne.
Holmes, G. (1989). Eastern Bristlebird Species Management Plan for Northern Populations. Draft report to Queensland National Parks & Wildlife Service & New South Wales National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Holmes, G. (1997). Eastern Bristlebirds in the subtropics. Wingspan 7(1), 10.
Kehl, J.C. & Corben, C. (1991). The fauna of the closed forests of the Conondale Ranges with particular reference to conservation & future land use. DPI, Queensland Forest Service: Brisbane.
Lamb, D., Turnbull, M.H. & Meyers, N. (1993). Eastern Bristlebird Habitat Assessment in Southern Queensland & Northern New South Wales. Report to ANPWS.
McFarland, D.C. (2007). Taxon Profiles Version 2.0: Threatened & Priority Fauna Taxa In Queensland: Biology & Distribution. EPA: Brisbane.
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NSWNPWS) (2001). Draft Recovery Plan for the Eastern Bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus). NSW NPWS: Hurstville, NSW.
Pyke, G., Saillard, R. & Smith, J. (1995). Abundance of Eastern Bristlebirds in relation to habitat & fire history. Emu 95, 106-110.
QPWS (2001). Dasyornis brachypterus Eastern Bristlebird. Species Management Profile, Species Management Manual Vol. 2. QPWS, Forest Management: Brisbane.
Schodde, R. & Mason, I.J. (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. CSIRO Publishing: Collingwood, Victoria.
Smith, G.T. (1988). Eastern Bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus (Latham, 1801). In: Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. (Eds Schodde, R. & Tidemann, S.C.), pp. 452. Reader's Digest: Sydney.
Stewart, D. (1998). The Eastern Bristlebird - Survey & Recovery Progress Report. Conservation Resource Unit, DEH: Moggill.
Stewart, D. (2002). Recovery Plan for the Northern Population of the Eastern Bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus monoides 2001-2005. QPWS, Brisbane.
Storr, G.M. (1984). Revised List of Queensland Birds. Rec. West. Aust. Mus. Suppl. 19, 1-189.
Profile author
David Stewart (19/08/2008)
Current programs & projects
Currently the northern population of eastern bristlebirds is being monitored on a regular basis by DoE and NSW NPWS staff.

Other resources

Data source

This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0.

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

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Last updated
20 May 2024