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Rufous Scrub-bird

Atrichornis rufescens


The Rufous Scrub-bird is a medium-sized ground dwelling bird found in small patches of high altitude rainforest on the east coast of Australia.

The species is often heard but rarely seen due to its shy and cryptic nature. Individuals are often detected due to their powerful calls, especially the male territorial call which can last over ten minutes. The scrub-birds (the Noisy Scrub-bird and the Rufous Scrub-bird) form a small endemic family of passerine birds who are most closely related to the lyre-birds. DNA studies have suggested that they differentiated from lyre-birds 30-35 million years ago. The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife consider the Rufous Scrub-bird a living fossil that evolved 97–65 million years ago. They are considered an ancient lineage and were likely part of the corvid radiation of the Australia-New Guinea region. The species is threatened by agroforestry activity and wildfires and the fact that many populations are now extremely small and isolated. Most of the populations exist within protected areas; however a more comprehensive understanding of the species’ ecology is needed to create and implement a species action plan. The need to address the impact of potentially drier climate conditions and wildfires is urgent to prevent numbers from dwindling further.

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Atrichornithidae
  • Population: <5,000
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 17cm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.53 (?)
ED Score: 30.4 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Endemic to Australia, this species is found in isolated populations in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland.

Habitat and Ecology

This species is found in high altitude rainforests, including subtropical temperate rainforest and moist and wet eucalypt forests. As ground dwellers, they prefer dense undergrowth where it is moist and humid with a deep layer of leaf litter to forage through for small invertebrates, such as snails and insects to feed on.

Find out more

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Habitat change Logging Fire Ecosystem changes

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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