Family Painted-snipes (Rostratulidae)


Australian Painted-snipe (Rostratula australis)


French: Rhynchée d’Australie German: Schmuckschnepfe Spanish: Aguatero australiano

Rhynchæa Australis


, 1838,

New South Wales


Until recently, considered conspecific with R. benghalensis, but australis is distinct on basis of (in female) throat, lower cheeks, ear-coverts, neck, neck sides and upper breast blackish-brown vs rufous (3); (in female) crownstripe whiter vs buffy (1); (in female) periorbital ring and postocular stripe buffier vs white, but not with complete constancy, so perhaps not diagnostic (ns); (in both sexes) tail spots more rounded (ns[1]); (in both sexes) white spots on rump or uppertail-coverts and in wings (1), this being a feature apparently previously not noted; (in female; from literature, gross differences confirmed by eye) has longer wing (at least 1) and shorter bill (ns[1]) and tarsus (at least 1) (2); male overall coloration paler and greyer vs richer and darker (ns[1]). Recent studies confirm differences in plumage (possibly significant in species’ displays), biometrics and perhaps voice#R, and particularly in DNA#R. Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

Australia, mainly along E & SE coasts, from N Queensland to S South Australia (Eyre Peninsula).

Descriptive notes

24–30 cm; male 106–142 g, female 119–145 g; wingspan 50–54 cm. Adult male has forehead and crown dark brown, with bold buff median stripe, rest of... read more


Often said to be near-silent. Female utters soft, metallic, drawn-out, low booming calls, which... read more


Shallow freshwater (occasionally brackish) wetlands, both ephemeral and permanent, including lakes... read more

Food and feeding

Diet includes vegetation (Bromus, Hordeum, Heliotropium supinum, Atriplex, Fabaceae), seeds, insects (e... read more


Recorded in all months, but mainly Sept–Dec; in S Australia, generally Aug–Feb, but earlier in N Australia. Some nests apparently solitary... read more


Largely nomadic, occasional records from remote areas suggest long-distance movements (and the... read more

Status and conservation

ENDANGERED. Population estimated at just 600–1700 mature individuals, despite potentially vast range (1,390,000 km²). Recorded at wetlands in every Australian state, but most... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Australian Painted-snipe (Rostratula australis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 March 2019).