Psophodidae – Whipbirds, Jewel-babblers & Quail-thrushes

Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma castaneothorax ©Ian Montgomery Website

Psophodidae is a family of passerine birds native to Australia and nearby areas. It has a complicated taxonomic history and different authors vary in which birds they include in the family. It includes at least the quail-thrushes (Cinclosoma), 8 species of ground-dwelling birds found in Australia and New Guinea. The jewel-babblers (Ptilorrhoa), 4 species found in rainforest in New Guinea, also seem to belong in this family.

The whipbirds and wedgebills (Psophodes and Androphobus) are also included. The Malaysian rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus) was formerly sometimes placed in this family which would then have been called Eupetidae.

Since DNA sequencing showed that this family occupied a different place in the phylogenetic tree its name was changed to Psophodidae.

The quail-thrushes and jewel babblers are medium-sized songbirds, 17–28 cm in length. They have strong legs and bills. Males and females often differ in plumage markings. The quail-thrushes are largely brown above, the colour varying to provide camouflage against the soil, but are more boldly marked with black and white below.[8] Jewel-babblers usually have extensive blue in their plumage. Most species have loud, distinctive songs.

Whipbirds and wedgebills are 19–31 cm long. They are mainly olive-green or brown in colour and have a crest.

Jewel-babblers are found on New Guinea and the neighbouring islands of Yapen, Batanta, Misool and Salawati. They occur in forest, generally replacing each other at different altitudes. The painted quail-thrush is also found in the forests of New Guinea. The other quail-thrushes are restricted to Australia where they are found in drier habitats, occurring in open forest, scrub and on stony ground. None of the species are thought to be threatened but one subspecies of the spotted quail-thrush is possibly extinct.

The whipbirds and wedgebills are all found in Australia, occurring in a range of habitats from rainforest to arid scrub. The western whipbird is considered to be near-threatened because of habitat loss and fires while the Papuan whipbird is classed as data deficient.

They are terrestrial birds which fly fairly weakly and prefer to squat or run when disturbed. They forage on the ground feeding mainly on insects and other invertebrates. In the desert, quail-thrushes also eat some seeds. They build a cup-shaped nest among shrubs or on the ground. Two or three eggs are laid

There are 17 species of Whipbird, Quail-thrush, Wedgebill and Jewel-babbler.

They are:

Papuan Whipbird Androphobus viridis

Eastern Whipbird Psophodes olivaceus
Western Whipbird Psophodes nigrogularis
Chirruping Wedgebill Psophodes cristatus
Chiming Wedgebill Psophodes occidentalis

Spotted Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa leucosticta
Blue Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa caerulescens
Brown-headed Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa geislerorum
Chestnut-backed Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa castanonota

Spotted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma punctatum
Chestnut Quail-thrush Cinclosoma castanotum
Copperback Quail-thrush Cinclosoma clarum
Cinnamon Quail-thrush Cinclosoma cinnamomeum
Nullarbor Quail-thrush Cinclosoma alisteri
Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma castaneothorax
Western Quail-thrush Cinclosoma marginatum
Painted Quail-thrush Cinclosoma ajax

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 17

Photographers & Artists
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