Black Tailed Native Hen

Quick Facts

Length: 34 cm
Height: -
Weight: 400 grams
Colour: Brownish-grey with narrow black tail
Habitat: Wetland areas with fresh or brackish water
Food: Seeds, plant material and insects
Predators: -
Status: Secure in all states and territories of Australia

The Black-tailed Native-hen is a large, stout, dark, fleet-footed rail with an erect narrow black tail which is held folded. The bird is mainly brownish-grey, with white spots on the flanks. The bill and frontal shield is green, with an orange-red lower mandible ('jaw'). Legs and feet are bright pink. The eye is bright yellow. They are seen in pairs, parties and sometimes large groups.

The Black-tailed Native-hen is similar in size and shape to the Dusky Moorhen, but has a more upright stance. The Dusky Moorhen has a white undertail, a red frontal shield and a yelllow-tipped red bill and yellow legs.

The Black-tailed Native-hen is widespread throughout mainland Australia.

The Black-tailed Native-hen is found near permanent or ephemeral terrestrial wetlands in low rainfall areas, in both fresh or brackish water.

The Black-tailed Native-hen is dispersive, with regular seasonal movements. Numbers may occasionally irrupt, determined by seasonal conditions and they may then use many habitats. Large numbers of Black-tailed Native-hens may arrive in an area then just as suddenly disappear again.

The Black-tailed Native-hen eats seeds, plant material and insects. It feeds on open ground near wetlands or at the edge of water and often feeds by running, then stopping, to stir up insects.

The Black-tailed Native-hen usually breeds near water in swamps, rank grasses or lignum. It is adapted to breeding rapidly when conditions are favourable. It makes a cup-shaped nest of stalks, twigs and leaves, lined with grasses and feathers. The downy young are greenish-black. Little is known about the behaviour of young birds.

Black-tailed Native-hens are secure in Australia and may occur near urban areas and golf courses. Large numbers of birds may cause crop damage.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Wednesday 17th July, 2013


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