Family Thornbills (Acanthizidae)

Least Concern

Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla)


French: Acanthize mignon German: Roststirn-Dornschnabel Spanish: Acantiza parda

Motacilla Pusilla


, 1790,

region of Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia


See A. apicalis. Sympatric in Tasmania with A. ewingii, presumably the original colonizer (present species having colonized or recolonized via land-bridges formed during periods of glaciation). Molecular studies suggest existence of two genetically differentiated assemblages, one in New South Wales and E Victoria, the other in South Australia and Australian Capital Territory; race diemenensis seems to be genetically more like A. apicalis; general trend of increasing flavenoid pigmentation from S to N, also of broader white edges of rectrices and smaller size. Proposed race mcgilli (E Queensland) included in dawsonensis; proposed race bunya (E Queensland S from Broad Sound, and NE New South Wales S, E of Great Dividing Range, to Tweed R) seems to relate to intergrade population between nominate and dawsonensis. Name archibaldi unnecessarily introduced as a replacement name for magnirostris, mistakenly believed to be preoccupied. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. p. dawsonensis A. G. Campbell, 1922 – coastal ranges of CE Queensland, in E Australia.
  • A. p. pusilla (Shaw, 1790) – coasts from SE Queensland S to Victoria and SE South Australia.
  • A. p. samueli Mathews, 1913 – Flinders and Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia.
  • A. p. zietzi North, 1904 – Kangaroo I, off South Australia.
  • A. p. magnirostris A. J. Campbell, 1903 – King I, in W Bass Strait; not recorded since 2002#R.
  • A. p. diemenensis Gould, 1838 – Kent Group (in NE Bass Strait) and Tasmania (mainly C & E).
  • Descriptive notes

    9–11·5 cm; 7 g. Medium-sized red-eyed thornbill. Nominate race is ­olive-brown above, with pale-scalloped rufous-brown forehead, paler grey-brown lores and... read more


    Varied, tuneful song quite loud, given all year (most often when breeding), “tzzt tzzt too... read more


    Habitats with dense shrub layer, including both wet and dry sclerophyll forests, regrowth, eucalypt... read more

    Food and feeding

    Primarily insectivorous; fruit, seeds and nectar occasionally taken. Recorded food includes spiders (Araneae), and beetles (Coleoptera),... read more


    Eggs in Jun/Jul–Jan and young in Aug–Jan, breeding cycle taking 7–11 weeks; sometimes double-brooded. Pair-bond long-term... read more


    Adults sedentary, but juveniles exhibit winter dispersal; some altitudinal dispersal reported in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common and widespread over much of E and SE Australia and Tasmania. Precise distribution uncertain owing to difficulty in separating this species... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gregory, P. (2019). Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla). 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 25 April 2019).