Atrichornithidae – Scrub-birds

Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens ©Michael Morcombe Website

Scrubbirds are shy, secretive, ground-dwelling birds of the family Atrichornithidae. There are just two species. The Rufous Scrubbird is rare and very restricted in its range, and the Noisy Scrubbird is so rare that until 1961 it was thought to be extinct. Both are native to Australia.

The scrubbird family is ancient and is understood to be most closely related to the lyrebirds, and probably also the bowerbirds and treecreepers. All four families originated with the great corvid radiation of the Australia-New Guinea region.

The population of the noisy scrubbird was estimated at 40 to 45 birds in 1962. Conservation efforts succeeded in increasing the population to around 400 birds by the mid-1980s, and they have subsequently been reintroduced to several sites, but remain endangered. As of 2002, the population had recovered to around 1,200 birds.

Birds of both species are about the same size as a common starling (roughly 20 cm long) and cryptically coloured in drab browns and blacks. They occupy dense undergrowth; the Rufous Scrubbird in temperate rain forests near the Queensland-New South Wales border, the Noisy Scrubbird in heaths and scrubby gullies in coastal Western Australia. They are adept at scuttling mouse-like under cover to avoid notice. They run fast, but their flight is feeble.

The males’ calls, however, are powerful, ringing and metallic, with a ventriloquial quality, so loud as to be heard from a long distance in heavy scrub and almost painful at close range. Females build a domed nest close to the ground and take sole responsibility for raising the young.

There are just two species in this family, which are:

Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens
Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus

Species Links
  • Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus

    HBW Species Account
  • Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus

    IUCN Species Status
    22-26 cm. Skulking passerine with short, rounded wings, long, rounded tail and characteristically triangular head profile. Adult dark brown above with faint dark barring and contrasting rufous wings.
  • Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus

    Species Account
    The noisy scrubbird (Atrichornis clamosus) is a species of bird in the Atrichornithidae family. It is endemic to South-West Australia.
  • Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens

    BirdLife Species Account
  • Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens

    HBW Species Account
    Taxonomy: Atrichia rufescens E. P. Ramsay, 1867, Richmond River, New South Wales, Australia. Birds from S Queensland (Macpherson Range) described as race jacksoni, but considered indistinguishable from nominate. Described taxon tweedi (from R Tweed, New South Wales) synonymized with nominate. Two subspecies recognized.
  • Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens

    IUCN Species Status
    This species has been uplisted to Endangered it has a very small, severely fragmented area of occupancy, and is experiencing habitat destruction and a continuing population decline. Inappropriate management continues to threaten the quality of its habitat and there are concerns that drying caused by increasingly erratic climate conditions may lead to its disappearance from much of its current range (e.g. recent research suggests it may suspend its breeding when winter rainfall is low).
  • Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Rufous Scrub-bird Atrichornis rufescens

    Species Account
    The rufous scrubbird (Atrichornis rufescens) is a bird species in the family Atrichornithidae. It is endemic to Australia.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 2

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