Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Nullarbor Quail-thrush
Cinclosoma alisteri
(Viewing 4 of 4 photos)

This distinctive form, until recently regarded as a subspecies of the widespread Cinnamon Quail-thrush, is found only on the Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia. It has undergone more changes in its specific status over the years than practically any other bird in Australia. In 2011 the pendulum has swung back and on the basis of some recent mitochondrial DNA studies it will be regarded again as a full species, for the near future at least! Not an easy bird to observe, finding a Nullarbor Quail-thrush can present quite a challenge to even the keenest of birdwatchers. Most people simply make a detour on to one of the many side roads that head north from the Eyre Highway during the long journey from South Australia to Western Australia in the hope of a chance sighting. Like all other quail-thrushes, the males sing well at daybreak in the breeding season, in this case July-August, and this is certainly the best time to go looking. Sunrise on the Nullarbor is an experience you will always remember - very few other places in Australia can you observe a 360 degree level horizon and it can feel like the loneliest place on earth, and the quietest! I had a morning bird list of two species!!

There is little vegetation out there more than waist-high so a human really stands out and the quail-thrushes see you long before you see them unless you go on all fours. They hide behind the saltbushes but when disturbed, fly low and fast for up to 200 m or so. Usually by the time you catch up they are nowhere to be seen, but if there is no wind, you might hear their high-pitched, sibilant contact calls (listen under Cinnamon Quail-thrush sample 439-05).


Photo: 440201

440201 ... Nullarbor Quail-thrush, the smallest and shyest of all the quail-thrushes.

Photo: 440202

440202 ... When disturbed, they fly low and fast for about 200 m and hide behind a saltbush.

Photo: 440203

440203 ... Good habitat, edge of Nullarbor Plain NE of Rawlinna, W.A.

Photo: 440204

440204 ... Nothing above waist-high - can feel like the lonliest place on earth.


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