Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Slaty-backed Thornbill
Acanthiza robustirostris
(Viewing 4 of 7 photos)

Click to listen to sound samples Slaty-backed Thornbills inhabit the more arid regions of the mulga zone in inland Australia. Very much a "birdwatcher's bird" only experts find them easily and even then careful scrutiny is needed to separate them from the other two species they often associate with, the Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbills. Country which has been heavily grazed by sheep, goats or cattle (480534) is no place to look for them. They prefer mulga with a varied shrub layer such as Acacia, Cassia, Eremophila and Dodonea which unfortunately are regarded by some landowners as "woody weeds".

It can be very frustrating trying to identify Slaty-backs as they feed so actively amongst the leafy canopy of mulga trees. The plain grey breast, a feature they share in common with both Chestnut-rumps and even juvenile Inland Thornbills in some places, is easy to see from below, but the diagnostic streaked crown (480207) is not. A couple of their calls are quite distinctive, but much of the time they sound remarkably like either Chestnut-rumped or Inland Thornbills.

Photo: 480201

480201 ... Slaty-backed Thornbill.

Photo: 480202

480202 ... Slaty-backed Thornbill in Acacia tetragonophylla 55 km west Quilpie, Queensland.

Photo: 480204

480204 ... The streaked crown is the key field mark. Juvenile Inland Thornbills can also have unmarked underparts.

Photo: 480205

480205 ... Note the unmarked breast and streaked crown.

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