Atrichornis rufescens


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Atrichornis rufescens
Species Authority: (Ramsay, 1867)
Common Name(s):
English Rufous Scrub-bird, Rufous Scrubbird

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered B2ab(ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Baker, B., Ford, H., Garnett, S., Holmes, T., Watson, D. & Woinarski, J.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Garnett, S., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., O'Brien, A., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
This species has been uplisted to Endangered it has a very small, severely fragmented area of occupancy, and is experiencing habitat destruction and a continuing population decline. Inappropriate management continues to threaten the quality of its habitat and there are concerns that drying caused by climate change may lead to its disappearance from much of its current range.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Atrichornis rufescens occurs in isolated populations in north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland, Australia. A. r. rufescens occurs in the Gibraltar Ranges, Border Ranges, the northern part of the McPherson Range and in parts of the Main Range, but formerly occurred in lowland habitats of the Rich­mond and Tweed River basins. A. r. ferrieri occurs on Barrington Tops, Hastings Range and in the Dorrigo/ Ebor area (Garnett et al. 2011). he species is mostly confined to areas above 600 m but an observation at 240 m has been documented. In the early 19th century, the population size may have been c.12,000 pairs, but surveys from 1979-1983 estimated it at c.2,500 pairs, A. r. rufescens numbering 730 pairs and A. r. ferrieri 1,720 pairs at a density of about 6 pairs/ km2 (Ferrier 1984, in Garnett et al. 2011). Declines are suspected in both sub­species (Ekert 2005, in Garnett et al. 2011). Some subpopulations of A. r. rufescens are thought to have disappeared within the last 2 decades, including those at Mt Warning and Spicers Gap, while declines in A. r. ferrieri are inferred because of a reduction in area occupied by calling males in New England National Park (Garnett and Crowley 2000).

Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Holmes (2007) estimated that the population may number as many as 12,000 pairs. Probably best placed in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The species requires dense, metre-high ground cover, a moist microclimate and deep leaf-litter, as found in rainforest and adjacent wet eucalypt forest above 600 m. The habitat used in rainforests is usually associated with canopy openings caused by natural tree-falls, selective logging, or watercourses. It forages on small invertebrates, including snails and insects, on the ground and over fallen logs, amongst leaf-litter and on other ground vegetation and debris, within the dense understorey (Higgins et al. 2001).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Most of the bird’s lowland habitat was cleared in the 19th century, and, while clearance itself is not a continuing threat with almost all birds being in protected areas, the subdivision of a small population into even smaller fragments makes each subpopulation more susceptible to random events. The suitability of remaining eucalypt forest, although, estimated to support 65% of the present population, is potentially threatened by inappropriate burning and logging practices, and may be threatened by wild fires during dry periods. Declines in density may also occur naturally as vegeta­tion matures and ground cover provides less shelter, so some fire or other disturbance such as storms may be necessary to maintain suitable habitat. There has also been an unexplained retreat of the southern part of the population to higher altitudes, even from uncleared forest, and this may be related to drying caused by climate change; it is not known if this retreat is continuing. In the longer term, the viability of some small remaining subpopulations may be questionable.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Logging has been stopped in an area known to contain territories, and the vast majority of remaining birds are within protected areas. Some monitoring has been initiated

Conservation Actions Proposed
Repeat surveys using similar methodology and develop a monitoring protocol for birds and habitat. Determine the effect of fire on territory occupation and determine the appropriate fire regime to maintain habitat suitability. Develop and implement fire management plans for all subpopulations. Maintain the ban on logging in all known territories. Assess whether experimental habitat manipulation is justified. Identify fire refugia at local and landscape levels (Garnett et al. 2011).

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Atrichornis rufescens. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 02 September 2015.
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