May’s Bird of the Month – Bassian thrush

Bassian thrush is the Bird of the Month for May. Photo: Contributed

BIRDLIFE East Gippsland members recently attended an Autumn camp at Toora. Over the four days, several members were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the very secretive Bassian thrush.

About the size of a common blackbird, the plumage of the Bassian thrush is mottled brown to olive-brown with heavily scalloped black crescent-shaped bars on the back, rump and head. The paler cinnamon-coloured underparts have brown-black scalloping. They have a distinctive white ring around the eye.

Found predominantly around the south-east of Australia, but also in the Atherton Tablelands, far-south Queensland, Tasmania and Kangaroo Island, the Bassian thrush’s preferred habitat is damp, dense forest and shrubland areas and heavily vegetated gullies that have a thick overhead canopy and leaf-litter below.

Often a solitary bird, but sometimes in pairs or small groups, the Bassian thrush feeds on the ground, scratching under the leaf-litter to expose moist soil in search of small invertebrates. Bassian thrush stand still, listening carefully for insect movement in the leaf litter, then rush forward to pounce on them and can often be detected by listening for those rustling sounds as dry surface leaves and twigs are thrown aside.

When disturbed, they may run briefly, before becoming motionless and relying on their mottled brown plumage to blend them into the forest background. While usually a quiet bird, you may hear their song, like a muted version of the song of the common blackbird, especially at dawn or in dull weather.

Breeding in July to December they build a large, deep, cup-shaped nest made of bark strips, leaves and rootlets, camouflaged outside with green mosses and lichens. Nests can be made in a major tree fork, in a depression on top of a stump or a ledge in a cave. This nest can be very low or up to 15 or so metres above the ground. Two or three eggs form the clutch and both parents care for the young.