Tasmanian Native-hen, Gallinula mortierii Click to enlarge image
Tasmanian Native-hen, Gallinula mortierii Image: Purnell Collection
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification
  • Size Range
    43 cm to 51 cm

The Tasmanian Native-hen was widespread on the Australian mainland until about 4700 years ago when it became extinct, possibly through predation by newly arrived Dingo and increasing aridity of the continent.

What do Tasmanian Native-hens look like?


A large, heavy bodied, flightless bird found only in Tasmania. It is similar in shape to the Black-tailed Native-hen Tribonyx ventralis 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.

Where do Tasmanian Native-hens live?


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.


North and East Tasmania.

What do Tasmanian Native-hens eat and how do they communicate?

Feeding and diet

Seeds, leaves, and vegetation and a few insects. Tasmanian Native-hens feed during the day and usually forage on the ground. Diet can shift from plant material in winter and spring, to consuming insects and seeds during summer months.


14 separate calls have been identified. Characteristic call is a loud rasping "see-saw" and a number of grunts.

What are Tasmanian Native-hens breeding behaviours?

Breeding Behaviour/s

Always breeds near water. Groups as large as 17 individuals form a permanent territory. Within this territory there are 2 to 5 breeding adults that form an integrated breeding group with young up to 2 years old. Tasmanian Native-hens may be monogamous or polygamous (usually polyandrous). 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 November 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. Chicks initially fed worms, tadpoles and insects with some plant material. Parents feed the chicks in decreasing amounts up to 8 weeks.

Breeding Season: August - November.


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

Economic/social impacts

Occurs around farm dams. May take fruit from gardens and orchards.