Nature conservation

Threatened species

Eastern Bristlebird - 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: Dasyornis brachypterus
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Endangered
Gazetted date: 31 Jan 1997
Profile last updated: 19 Dec 2018


Eastern Bristlebirds are medium-sized, long-tailed, brown and rufous birds. They are shy and cryptic and mostly occur in dense, coastal vegetation. Although secretive, they are occasionally seen scampering across open clearings and are easily located by their loud, melodic song and a harsh, sharp alarm-call. The plumage of the Eastern Bristlebird is dull brownish above and lighter grey below, with rufous wings. The tail comprises about half the bird’s total length of 21 cm and may appear to be distinctively frayed. The wings are very short and rounded. The legs are long and strong. The face is paler and the eye is bright red. The strong ‘bristles’ at the base of the bill can be seen at close range. Given good views, this species should be distinctive, though given their cryptic nature they may be confused with the Rufous Scrub-bird (Atrichornis rufescens), Pilotbird (Pycnoptilus floccosus) or even juvenile Eastern Whipbirds (Psophodes olivaceus).


The distribution of the Eastern Bristlebird has contracted to three disjunct areas of south-eastern Australia. There are three main populations: Northern - southern Queensland/northern NSW, Central - Barren Ground NR, Budderoo NR, Woronora Plateau, Jervis Bay NP, Booderee NP and Beecroft Peninsula and Southern - Nadgee NR and Croajingalong NP in the vicinity of the NSW/Victorian border. The estimated population size is less than 2000 individuals occupying a total area of about 120 sq km. There are now only four populations in the southern Queensland/northern NSW area with a total of 35 birds, compared to 15 years ago when 14 populations and 154 birds were recorded. This population once extended as far south as at least Dorrigo and has recently been identified as a separate ultrataxon (monoides) but further research is being undertaken to determine the validity of this. The remaining populations are the nominate ultrataxon (brachypterus) and once extended at least to what is now the Sydney urban area. The central population comprises an estimated 1600 birds, mainly from Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, Budderoo National Park and the Jervis Bay area. The southern population in Nadgee Nature Reserve and Howe's Flat is around 200 birds. Further surveys are required in parts of Ben Boyd National Park and Sydney Catchment Authority lands to determine whether further populations of the Eastern Bristlebird occur in these areas.

Habitat and ecology

  • Habitat for central and southern populations is characterised by dense, low vegetation including heath and open woodland with a heathy understorey. In northern NSW the habitat occurs in open forest with dense tussocky grass understorey and sparse mid-storey near rainforest ecotone; all of these vegetation types are fire prone.
  • Age of habitat since fires (fire-age) is of paramount importance to this species. The Illawarra and southern populations reach maximum densities in habitat that has not been burnt for at least 15 years; however, habitat in northern NSW requires frequent fires to maintain habitat condition and suitability. The northern fire regimes is between 3-6 years and of variable intensity depending on the habitat condition.
  • Shy and cryptic and rarely flies, although can be seen scampering over the ground; when approached, may move to a lookout perch 1 m or more above the ground, then retreat into dense vegetation.
  • Feeds on a variety of insects, particularly ants.
  • Nests are elliptical domes constructed on or near the ground amongst dense vegetation.
  • Two eggs are laid during August to February; producing more than one clutch a year is rare, and recruitment into the population is low.
  • Males are strongly territorial

Regional distribution and habitat

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Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
Sydney BasinEttrema Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinMoss Vale Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None