Tasmanian Native Hen

Quick Facts

Length: 48 cm
Height: -
Weight: 1 300 grams
Colour: Brown head, back and wings and slate grey on it's underparts. Yellow bill and red eye, black tail
Habitat: Open pastures, grasslands and other cleared areas generally close to permanent water or swamps, dams and rivers
Food: Seeds, leaves, vegetation and some insects
Predators: -
Status: Secure in TAS. Not Present in all other states and territories in Australia

A large, heavy bodied, flightless bird found only in Tasmania. It is similar in shape to the Black-tailed Native-hen Tribonyx ventralia but is larger. The Tasmanian Native-hen has a large yellow bill, a red eye, brown head, back and wings and is slate grey on its underparts. The contrasting black tail is long and narrow and is flattened along the mid-line of the bird . The legs are powerful and grey in colour. Juvenile birds are similar to adults but duller.

The Black-tailed Native-hen is similar in general shape and colouration but is rather smaller and has red legs and a yellow eye-ring. The Black-tailed Native-hen is usually found only on the Australian mainland but has been found as a vagrant in Tasmania.

Found in North and East Tasmania in open pastures, grasslands, and other cleared areas, typically close to permanent or seasonal freshwater such as swamps, dams and rivers. They prefer wetlands with significant amounts of cover in which they can hide. Frequently seen at Peter Murrell Nature Reserve just south of Hobart.

These birds are generally sedentary in permanent territories. Young may disperse at end of first year up to about 17 months.

Seeds, leaves, and vegetation and a few insects. Tasmanian Native-Hens feed during the day and usually forage on the ground.

Throughout the year 2 or 3 birds (sometimes more) form an intergrated breeding group with young up to 1 year within a permanent territory. Tasmanian Native-hens may be monogamous or polygamous. All the male birds in the group breed with 1 or more females in the group. Both sexes participate in nest building, incubating and tending chicks. Eggs are laid in an egg nest typically between August and Novenber but this may vary significantly depending upon seasonal conditions. The egg nest is usually built on the ground or over water from grass, reeds or herbage. Young are brooded at night (and sometimes during the day) in one of a number of nursery nests built in a more exposed position. Nursery nests are usually bulkier and untidier than egg nests. From 3 to 9 (but usually 5 to 8) eggs are laid. These eggs are incubated for about 22 days. Parents feed the chicks in decreasing amounts up to 8 weeks .

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Thursday 9th January, 2014
BirdLife Australia - www.birdlife.org.au


Signup for our monthly newsletter the "e-Telegraph"