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A photo of a Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla)
Brown Thornbill

Brown Thornbill

Acanthiza pusilla

The Brown Thornbill, a diminutive bird with a warm brown to olive-brown upper body, is a charming sight in the eastern and southeastern Australian landscapes, including Tasmania. Its underparts are adorned with buff scallops on the forehead and a grey throat and breast with blackish streaks. The eyes are a striking dark red, and the rump and tail base are a tawny hue, with the tail featuring a black subterminal band and paler tips.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Brown Thornbill, look for its small stature, typically ranging from 9 to 10 cm in length and weighing a mere 7 grams. Its olive-buff to yellowish-white flanks, buff scallops on the forehead, and large dark red eyes are distinctive features. The blackish streaks on its grey throat and breast, along with the tawny rump and tail base, are also key identification markers.


This species thrives in a variety of habitats, including dry forests with dense undergrowth, rainforests, shrublands, coastal dune thickets, and areas along rivers and creeks where rushes and bracken provide cover. They are most commonly found at elevations up to 1,200 meters.


The Brown Thornbill is a resident of eastern and southeastern Australia, including Tasmania. It is typically found within 300 kilometers of the coast and is a common sight in the Blue Mountains.


The Brown Thornbill is a sedentary bird, often seen feeding restlessly close to the ground or in lower trees and shrubs. It is known to form mixed-species feeding flocks, particularly outside the breeding season.

Song & Calls

This species is a skilled mimic, capable of replicating the alarm calls of other birds to deter predators. Its own calls are a rich, musical warble, varying from mellow baritone to high whistles with rapid trills, and an assortment of squeaks and churrs.


Brown Thornbill pairs tend to form long-lasting bonds. Their dome-shaped nests, with a hooded side-entrance, are crafted from grasses, bark, moss, and feathers or plant down, bound together with spider webs. They lay clutches of two to four eggs, with three being most common. The eggs are whitish with red-brown freckles and incubate for 19 days, with a nesting period of 16 days. Breeding season spans from July to January.

Similar Species

The Brown Thornbill shares part of its range with the Inland Thornbill, which can be found on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range and the Mt Lofty Ranges.

Diet and Feeding

Primarily insectivorous, the Brown Thornbill's diet includes spiders, beetles, lerp insects, ants, and grasshoppers. Occasionally, it may consume seeds, fruit, or nectar.

Conservation status

The Brown Thornbill is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, with a stable population. However, the King Island subspecies (A. p. archibaldi) is critically endangered, with a recovery program expected to be formulated to prevent its extinction.

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Brown Thornbills on Birda


More Australasian Warblers

A photo of a Inland Thornbill (Acanthiza apicalis)

Inland Thornbill

Acanthiza apicalis
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