Nature conservation

Threatened species

Pale-vented Bush-hen - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Amaurornis moluccana
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 12 Feb 2018


The Pale-vented Bush-hen is a medium-sized (body length 25-30 cm), all-dark waterbird, dark olive-brown above, with a dark-grey face, usually merging to paler off-white chin, and dark-grey on the lower throat, breast and belly and rufous-brown on the lower underbody. The bill is lime-green with an orange-red base to the upper mandible during the breeding season, and paler green without orange when not breeding; the legs are greenish-yellow. The Pale-vented Bush-hen is distinguished from other similarly-sized crakes and rails by the comination of uniformly dark plumage, lacking pale markings to underbody or undertail, its yellowish-green to green bill and its loud and distinctive shrieking calls or wailing duets during the breeding season. The Bush-hen in Australia is now classified as the Pale-vented Bush-hen (Amaurornis moluccana), separate from the Plain Bush-hen (A. olivaceus) of the Philippines, with which it was formerly combined. The Pale-vented Bush-hen is secretive and cryptic, usually remaining in dense vegetation near watercourses or at the edges of wetlands, and often only detected by its loud, distinctive calls. It is active during the day and at night. When walking, it flicks its tail in the manner of most rails and swamp-hens, particularly when nervous; and it swims and wades readily. It apparently flies mainly at night. It occurs solitarily, in pairs, or small family groups of parents and young.


In Australia, the Pale-vented Bush-hen occurs mainly in coastal and subcoastal regions from the Top End of the Northern Territory and Cape York Peninsula south through eastern Queensland to north-eastern NSW. There are a few records in the Kimberley Division of northern Western Australia. In NSW, Bush-hens are an apparently uncommon resident from the Queensland border south to the Clarence River, though the species appears to be expanding its range southwards with recent records as far south as the Nambucca River. Outside Australia, the species occurs in the Moluccas, western and southern New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomon Islands. The subspecies present in Australia is ruficrissa which also occurs in southern and eastern New Guinea.

Habitat and ecology

  • The Pale-vented Bush-hen inhabits tall dense understorey or ground-layer vegetation on the margins of freshwater streams and natural or artificial wetlands, usually within or bordering rainforest, rainforest remnants or forests.
  • Also occur in secondary forest growth, rank grass or reeds, thickets of weeds, such as Lantana (Lantana camara), and pastures, crops or other farmland, such as crops of sugar cane, and grassy or weedy fields, or urban gardens where they border forest and streams or wetlands, such as farm dams. Can also occur in and around mangroves, though rarely do so, if at all, in NSW.
  • Key elements of their habitat are dense undergrowth 2 to 4 metres tall and within 300 metres of water.
  • The diet consists of seeds, plant matter, earthworms, insects and some frogs, taken from ground cover or by wading at edges of streams or wetlands.
  • The breeding season is from spring to early autumn, October to April.
  • The nest is a shallow bowl or cup of grass stems, often partly hooded, built close to water in thick ground vegetation such as dense Blady Grass (Imperata cylindrica), mat rush (Lomandra) or reeds, often under or growing through shrubs or vine or beneath a tree.
  • Birds lay 4 to 7 eggs in a clutch and will re-lay after a successful breeding attempt and make multiple attempts after nesting failures.
  • The incubation period is about 3 weeks. The hatchlings are precocial and can run soon after hatching; they are probably dependent on their parents for 4 to 5 weeks after hatching.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known North of South West Rocks
NSW North CoastYuraygir Predicted None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandWoodenbong Known None