Nature conservation

Threatened species

Chestnut Quail-thrush - 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: Cinclosoma castanotum
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 01 Dec 2017


The Chestnut Quail-thrush is a medium-sized (21- 26 centimetres) ground-dwelling thrush-like bird. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, expressed in terms of plumage pattern and smaller body size in the females. Both sexes are complexly patterned and are grey-brown above, with the lower back and rump bright chestnut, though this may be almost lacking in females. The males have a black face, chin, throat and breast and distinctive white eyebrow and malar streak. The female is overall duller and possesses a grey chin, throat, and breast. Both sexes have a clean white belly, greyish flanks and grey-brown tail, which is tipped white (very obvious in flight). The iris is brown, bill black, and the legs grey. Juveniles are similar to adult females but duller, with some darker mottling on the upperparts, while immature males may exhibit some of the black markings of the adult. This species, particularly the female, can be difficult to distinguish from the Chestnut-breasted and Cinnamon Quail-thrushes. Both of these species are smaller, but habitat may be the best way to separate these species (the former preferring rocky hills and the latter in stony gibber plains or low chenopod shrubland). The Chestnut Quail-thrush is usually seen singly, in pairs or small family groups. It is generally a quiet, wary species usually quietly walking away from observers, though it will flush with a loud whirring of wings if surprised or pursued. It is often first detected by its high-pitched, nearly inaudible “seep” contact call.


This species is endemic to arid and semi-arid southern Australia, reaching its northern extent in the south of the Northern Territory. Three subspecies have been described with the nominate (castanotum) the only one occurring in NSW. It is probably the most widely recorded of the ‘mallee specialists’ in NSW where it occurs in two main populations. The first is in the central mallee centred on Round Hill and Nombinnie Nature Reserves, with a number of sightings also made on leasehold land to the north and west of these reserves. This population probably occurred in mallee as far south as Griffith and Temora, though extensive clearing has meant that recent records have only been made in Loughnan Nature Reserve and in mallee near Taleeban, and more rarely in Cocoparra National Park. The last record from Pulletop Nature Reserve was in 1999 and prior to this it had not been seen since 1985 despite some survey effort. The other population is in the south west corner of the state where it is widespread in both the Scotia mallee and in areas east of the Darling River as far east as Balranald and north to near Menindee. There are few records between the Darling River and the Great Darling Anabranch, though this may reflect lack of survey effort in suitable habitat. There have been occasional records to the north of these mallee areas (such as Gundabooka and Mutawintji National Parks and particularly in the Cobar area) though these records remain unconfirmed and confusion with other Quail-thrush species can not be discounted.

Habitat and ecology

  • Throughout its distribution it occurs in a wide range of arid and semi-arid habitats; mainly in the low shrubs and undergrowth of mallee scrub, but also in Acacia scrubs, dry sclerophyll woodland, heath, and native pine. However, in NSW it seems to occur almost exclusively in mallee habitats, with understorey dominated by spinifex, chenopods or other shrubs including Acacia species. Only rarely, such as in Cocoparra NP, is it recorded in other types of woodland, and in these areas a dense understorey may be a prerequisite.
  • Occupies vegetation with a wide range of fire histories, though appears to occur at highest densities in areas two to fifteen years post fire. There is some evidence from the Victorian mallee that if the interval between fires is too short (less than fifteen years) local declines may occur.
  • These birds forage on the ground, often among spinifex clumps, on a wide range of invertebrates (including grasshoppers, bugs, beetles, flies, caterpillars and ants), seeds of both native and introduced species and, more rarely, fruits.
  • Its nest is a depression in the ground lined with strips of bark, fine grass or sticks, placed near a mallee trunk, against a fallen branch, under a low bush or in a sparse tuft of grass. Almost always lays a clutch of two eggs.

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
Cobar PeneplainBarnato Downs Known None
Cobar PeneplainLachlan Plains Known None
Cobar PeneplainNymagee Known None
Murray Darling DepressionDarling Depression Known None
Murray Darling DepressionSouth Olary Plain Known None
NSW South Western SlopesLower Slopes Known West of Wyalong
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
RiverinaLachlan Predicted None
RiverinaMurray Scroll Belt Predicted None
RiverinaRobinvale Plains Known None