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A photo of a Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthiza ewingii)
Tasmanian Thornbill

Tasmanian Thornbill

Acanthiza ewingii

The Tasmanian thornbill, a diminutive avian resident of Tasmania and the Bass Strait Islands, is a member of the Acanthizidae family, known colloquially as Australian warblers. This bird is characterized by its olive-brown plumage that darkens towards the back and tail, with a distinctive patch of reddish-brown on the forehead. Its wings are a dark grey with olive-brown edges, and the underparts exhibit a grey scalloping from chin to breast, continuing along the sides of the head. The bill, feet, and legs are a uniform dark grey, while the eyes are large and dark with red irises. A notable feature of this species is its long, thin, thorn-shaped beak, and the fluffy white under-tail coverts. On average, the Tasmanian thornbill measures around 10 cm, with no significant difference in coloration or size between the sexes.

Identification Tips

To distinguish the Tasmanian thornbill from the similar brown thornbill, one should note the following key differences: the Tasmanian thornbill sports pristine white under-tail coverts, contrasting with the brown thornbill's greyish-brown. The primary feather edges on the Tasmanian thornbill's wings are more pronounced, and it boasts a longer tail. The grey tones on the chin, throat, and breast are more pronounced, and the forehead lacks the scalloping seen in the brown thornbill.

Habitat

The Tasmanian thornbill is endemic to its namesake island and the surrounding Bass Strait Islands. It thrives in rainforests, wet forests, and scrublands, preferring the dense scrub around wet gullies over drier, more open slopes. Its favored habitat is the temperate rainforest, but it also inhabits Mediterranean-style shrubby vegetation, bogs, marshes, fens, swamps, peatlands, and shrub-dominated wetlands.

Distribution

This species is commonly found throughout Tasmania and the Bass Strait Islands. The subspecies A. e. rufifrons is endemic to King Island, where it occupies similar habitats.

Behaviour

Feeding

The Tasmanian thornbill is primarily insectivorous, supplementing its diet with seeds and fruits on occasion. It forages at various levels within the forest, from the ground to the canopy, inspecting leaves, bark, and twigs for its prey.

Breeding

Breeding season spans from September to January. The thornbill constructs a small, domed nest with a hinged flap entrance, using grass, green mosses, and fine bark strips. It is placed in low, dense vegetation. The clutch typically consists of 3 to 4 eggs, which vary in color from off-white with brown freckles to a brown/bronze with dark speckles, predominantly at the base.

Vocalisation

The Tasmanian thornbill's call is a warbling zit zit zit, characteristic of the Acanthizidae family's vocal repertoire.

Conservation status

The Tasmanian thornbill is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population. However, there are concerns that habitat destruction and pesticide use may be causing a decline in numbers.

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Inland Thornbill

Acanthiza apicalis
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