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A photo of a Brush Bronzewing (Phaps elegans)
Brush Bronzewing

Brush Bronzewing

Phaps elegans

The brush bronzewing, Phaps elegans, is a stout, small to medium-sized bird, measuring from 25 to 33 centimeters in length. Exhibiting sexual dimorphism, both males and females possess a dark-olive brown plumage on their upper parts, with a rich chestnut hue gracing the nape and shoulders, and blue-grey underparts. The species is distinguished by the striking iridescent bars of blue and green that adorn the inner secondary feathers of each wing, a feature that has inspired its common name.

Identification Tips

When identifying the brush bronzewing, look for its shorter and stockier build compared to the common bronzewing. The iridescent wing bars are a key characteristic, along with the contrasting chestnut and blue-grey tones of its plumage. The sexual dimorphism in this species may aid in distinguishing males from females.


The brush bronzewing is a denizen of dense coastal heathland, wet and dry sclerophyll forests, woodlands, and some mallee areas. It thrives in environments with a thick shrub layer and foliage, where it can find cover among native flora such as Banksia, Acacia, Melaleuca, and Leptospermum.


Endemic to Australia, the brush bronzewing is found across the South-West and South-East of the mainland, with populations in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. The subspecies P. elegans occidentalis is geographically distinct, residing in the southwest of Western Australia.


The brush bronzewing is a ground forager, feeding on seeds, berries, and small insects. It often ingests grit to aid in digestion. Typically seen foraging alone or in pairs, this bird approaches watering holes at dawn or dusk with great caution. It is not known to form large flocks, preferring to move in smaller groups or as solitary individuals.

Song & Calls

During courtship, the brush bronzewing performs a display that includes bowing and emitting a low, repeated 'hoop' or 'whoo' call. These vocalizations serve as an advertisement to potential mates.


Breeding mainly occurs from September to January, although nesting can be observed year-round. The brush bronzewing lays a clutch of two eggs, which are incubated for about 17 days. Fledglings leave the nest after 16–20 days and become independent 3–4 weeks later. The species has a low nesting success rate, with a study showing only a small number of young surviving to fledge.

Similar Species

The brush bronzewing is similar in size and shape to the common bronzewing but can be differentiated by its more compact build and the unique iridescent wing bars.

Diet and Feeding

This species consumes a diet of seeds, berries, and small insects, foraging primarily on the ground. It also ingests small stones to assist in the grinding of seeds within its gizzard.

Conservation status

The brush bronzewing is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It is considered to have secure populations in all states where it is found. However, like many ground-dwelling birds, it faces threats from introduced predators such as cats and foxes. Interestingly, it may have increased toxicity to these non-native predators due to its consumption of Gastrolobium plants, which could play a role in preserving biodiversity in south-west Western Australia.

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Brush Bronzewings on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
Wintah Thompson
06 May 2023 - 1:07pm

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