Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct as Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Dasyornis broadbenti littoralis.
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument] as Dasyornis broadbenti littoralis.
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (11/04/2007) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007f) [Legislative Instrument] as Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis.
List of Migratory Species - Amendment to the list of migratory species under section 209 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (26/11/2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013af) [Legislative Instrument] as Dasyornis broadbenti littoralis.
State Government
    Documents and Websites
WA:South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Plan 2009-2018 (Department of Environment and Conservation, 2009v) [State Recovery Plan].
State Listing Status
WA: Listed as Presumed Extinct (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list) as Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Extinct (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis [25972]
Family Pardalotidae:Passeriformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author (Milligan,1902)
Other names Dasyornis broadbenti littoralis [26197]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis

Common name: Rufous Bristlebird (western), South-western Rufous Bristlebird

The Rufous Bristlebird (western), is a conventionally accepted subspecies of the Rufous Bristlebird (Dasyornis broadbenti) (Higgins & Peter 2002b; Schodde & Mason 1999).

The extinct Rufous Bristlebird (western) was a medium-sized thrush-like terrestrial bird with a rufous cap and conspicuous scalloping on the breast. It was 25–27 cm in length. The head was rich rufous on top, extending onto the ear-coverts; the lores and other areas of the face were off-white. The hindneck, back, uppertail and scapulars were reddish-brown, grading to olive brown with a reddish-brown tinge on the lower back and rump; the upperwings were brownish with a rufous tinge. The chin, throat and breast were grey-white with bold scalloping, and the remainder of the underparts were mostly grey. The bill was grey-black on the upper mandible and paler grey or pink on the lower mandible. The eyes were red while the legs and feet were dark brown or greyish-brown (Higgins & Peter 2002b; Johnstone & Storr 2004b; Milligan 1902a).

The species was usually recorded singly or occasionally in pairs (Higgins & Peter 2002b).

The Rufous Bristlebird (western) was endemic to the south-western coast of Western Australia, between Cape Mentelle and Cape Naturaliste (Higgins & Peter 2002; Johnstone & Storr 2004; Schodde & Mason 1999; Storr 1991). The species as a whole occurs in coastal and subcoastal areas of southern Australia. There are two extant (living) subspecies: Dasyornis broadbenti broadbenti occurs between the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia and Portland in Victoria; and Dasyornis broadbenti caryochrous occurs only in Victoria, from various sites near Peterborough east to Jan Juc, near Torquay (Higgins & Peter 2002; Peter 2003; Seymour et al. 2003).

This extinct subspecies formerly occurred only in southern-western coastal areas of Western Australia (Higgins & Peter 2002; Johnstone & Storr 2004; Schodde & Mason 1999; Storr 1991).

There are no current captive populations of this subspecies and none has been reintroduced into the wild.

A systematic search was conducted in February 1922, at sites between Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. No bristlebirds of any species were recorded (Whitley 1971). More recently there have been many Atlas surveys conducted in south-western Western Australia between 1977–81, and between 1998–2002 (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984), but no sign of the subspecies was found.

The Western Australian subspecies of the Rufous Bristlebird was formerly considered to be 'moderately common' (Storr 1991), but no population estimates are available.

The former range of the Rufous Bristlebird (western) was small (Storr 1991), although it is unknown whether there were subpopulations present within this range. The species as a whole occurs in several smaller populations, each considered a separate subspecies (Higgins & Peter 2002; Schodde & Mason 1999).

Though the Rufous Bristlebird (western) is said to have been moderately common (Storr 1991), no extreme fluctuations in population numbers were reported. The generation length of the extinct Western Australian subspecies of the Rufous Bristlebird is unknown. However, the generation length of the two extant subspecies of the Rufous Bristlebird is estimated at five years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Cross-breeding with other species was not recorded in the wild.

Most of the coastal area between Cape Mentelle and Cape Naturaliste is included in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, but this was declared a National Park well after the Rufous Bristlebird (western) became extinct in the area.

The Rufous Bristlebird (western) formerly inhabited stunted dense coastal shrublands on clifftops and sand-dunes (Carter 1924; Milligan 1902a).

No life cycle information is known about the Rufous Bristlebird (western) (Serventy & Whittell 1976). Other subspecies of the Rufous Bristlebird mostly breed between August and January, and usually nest just above the ground in tussocks of grass or sedges, or among low, dense shrubs, laying two eggs of variable colour (Brummitt 1935; Ey 1944; Higgins & Peter 2002b; Lang 1946; Ross 1911; Sutton 1932).

The Rufous Bristlebird (western) is known to have eaten terrestrial snails (Milligan 1902a). Other extant subspecies eat invertebrates, especially insects and their larvae, and fruits and seeds (Campbell 1907; Chapman 1999; Lea & Gray 1935; Morgan 1919; Sutton 1925).

The foraging methods of the Rufous Bristlebird (western) are unknown, but other extant subspecies usually forage on the ground, either on bare ground or among leaf litter. Some food items are also gleaned from low foliage (Campbell 1907; Chapman 1999; Higgins & Peter 2002b; Lang 1946).

Predation by feral cats may have adversely affected the population of the Western Australian subspecies (Carter 1924). The ground foraging habits of the Rufous Bristlebird (western) may make the species vulnerable to such predation.

The Rufous Bristlebird (western) was probably sedentary. Other Rufous Bristlebird subspecies are sedentary or resident (Higgins & Peter 2002b), though near the eastern edge of its range, some movements of the Victorian subspecies Rufous Bristlebird (Otways) were recorded after the severe Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983. The Rufous Bristlebird (Otways) were recorded passing through Aireys Inlet, Victoria, on three occasions between 1983 and 1988, but did not remain in the area (Reilly 1991a). At Point Addis, Victoria, after the same bushfire, the subspecies was recorded only once in surveys between 1984 and 1987 (Reilly 1991).

There is no information on the home ranges or territories of the Rufous Bristlebird (western). Other extant subspecies of Rufous Bristlebird occupy small permanent home ranges. The size of the territories of the Rufous Bristlebird (Otways) is estimated at 1.5–3 ha (Wilson et al. 2001), while the nominate subspecies Rufous Bristlebird (Coorong) is 2–2.5 ha (Higgins & Peter 2002b).

With good views, the Rufous Bristlebird (western) would have been distinctive, but as the species exhibited skulking behaviour and inhabited dense vegetation, clear views would have been scarce and brief views under these circumstances may have made it difficult to distinguish from other skulking sympatric species such as the Noisy Scrub-bird (Atrichornis clamosus) or possibly even the Western Whipbird (Psophodes nigrogularis) (Wilson et al. 2001).

The Rufous Bristlebird (western) was difficult to flush, or even to see, though early settlers were able to see the birds when they were flushed by dogs (Milligan 1902a). The presence of individuals was possibly less difficult to detect by listening for its calls (Milligan 1902a). Other Rufous Bristlebird subspecies are more commonly detected by their calls than sightings (Campbell 1907; Chisholm 1936; Sutton 1927a; Wilson et al. 2001).

The Rufous Bristlebird (western) is considered to have became extinct after its shrubland habitat was burnt repeatedly to convert it into pasture in the early 20th century (Carter 1924). It was last recorded in 1908, when a specimen was collected (Johnstone & Storr 2004b; Serventy & Whittell 1976). Since then there have been a number of unconfirmed reports (Blakers et al. 1984; Chapman 1999; Glauert 1945), but these are not considered to be accurate.

There have been no major studies conducted on this subspecies. The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (Higgins & Peter 2002b) summarises all that is known about the species as a whole. The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) also provides a summary of ecological and biological data for the species.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Dasyornis broadbenti litoralisin Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006hf) [Internet].

Barrett, G., A. Silcocks, S. Barry, R. Cunningham & R. Poulter (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Brummitt, D.W. (1935). Some nesting observations in the south-east in summer of 1935-36. South Australian Ornithologist. 13:49-50.

Campbell, A.G. (1907). The Bristle-bird (Sphenura broadbenti). Emu. 6:134-136.

Carter, T. (1924). Birds of the Broome Hill district. Emu. 23:223--235.

Chapman, G. (1999). Bristlebirds: see how they run. Wingspan. 9(1).

Chisholm, A.H. (1936). Various bird problems. Emu. 35:317-323.

Ey, A. (1944). Birds breeding in the Millicent district. South Australian Ornithologist. 17:32-37.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from:

Glauert, L. (1945). Bristle-birds in Western Australia. Emu. 44:334.

Higgins, P.J. & J.M. Peter (2002b). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. In: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Volume 6. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Johnstone, R.E. & G.M. Storr (2004b). Handbook of Western Australian Birds. Vol. 2: Passerines (Blue-winged Pitta to Goldfinch). Page(s) 529. Perth, West Australian Museum.

Lang, C.L. (1946). Notes on the Rufous Bristlebird. Emu. 45:257-259.

Lea, A.M. & J.T. Gray (1935). The food of Australian birds: an analysis of the stomach contents. Part 2. Emu. 35:63-98.

Milligan, A.W. (1902a). Description of a new Bristle Bird (Sphenura). Emu. 1:67-69.

Morgan, A.M. (1919). The birds of the south-eastern part of South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist. 4:7-20.

Peter, J.M. (2003). The Rufous Bristlebird: defining the eastern limit of its range. Victorian Naturalist. 120:187-191.

Reilly, P. (1991). The effect of wildfire on bush bird populations in six Victorian coastal habitats. Corella. 15:134-142.

Reilly, P.N. (1991a). The effect of wildfire on bird populations in a Victorian coastal habitat. Emu. 91:100-106.

Ross, J.A. (1911). Notes on the Rufous Bristle-bird. Emu. 11:119-124.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO.

Serventy, D.L. & H.M. Whittell (1976). Birds of Western Australia. Perth: University of Western Australia Press.

Seymour, J., D.C. Paton & D.J. Rogers (2003). The conservation of the Rufous Bristlebird, Dasyornis broadbenti, in South Australia. Emu. 103:315-321.

Storr, G.M. (1991). Birds of the South-west Division of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum. Suppl. 35.

Sutton, J. (1925). A trip to the Coorong. South Australian Ornithologist. 8:75-94.

Sutton, J. (1927a). A week in the Robe district. South Australian Ornithologist. 9:5-29.

Sutton, J. (1932). Lake Alexandrina and the Coorong in flood-time. South Australian Ornithologist. 11:174-184.

Whitley, G.P. (1971). Field notes on birds by Thomas Carter. Western Australian Naturalist. 12:41-44.

Wilson, B.A., J.G. Aberton, P.N. Reilly & M. MacDonald (2001). The distribution and ecology of the Rufous Bristlebird (Dasyornis broadbenti) at Aireys Inlet, Victoria. Emu. 101:341-347.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Fri, 1 Aug 2014 08:20:44 +1000.