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Spotted Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma punctatum).jpg
Spotted quail-thrush (Cinclosoma punctatum)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Family: Psophodidae
Bonaparte, 1854

See list below

Psophodidae is a family of passerine birds native to Australia and nearby areas. It has a complicated taxonomic history and different authors vary in which birds they include in the family. In the strictest sense, it includes only the 5 or 6 species of whipbirds and wedgebills (Psophodes and Androphobus), but some authors also includes at the quail-thrushes (Cinclosoma), 8 species of ground-dwelling birds found in Australia and New Guinea, and the jewel-babblers (Ptilorrhoa), 3 or 4 species found in rainforest in New Guinea. The Malaysian rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus) was formerly sometimes placed in this family, which would then be called Eupetidae.


The quail-thrushes, jewel-babblers, whipbirds and wedgebills were traditionally included with the logrunners (Orthonyx) in the family Orthonychidae.[1] Sometimes the Malaysian rail-babbler and blue-capped ifrit (Ifrita kowaldi) were also included in the family.[2] In 1985, Sibley and Ahlquist found that the logrunners were not related to the others and included only the logrunners in the Orthonychidae.[3] They treated the others as the subfamily Cinclosomatinae within their expanded family Corvidae.[4]

A number of authors later treated the quail-thrushes and allies as the family Cinclosomatidae, a name first coined by Gregory Mathews in 1921–1922. However, if the whipbirds are included in the family, the older name Psophodidae Bonaparte, 1854 has priority. If the Malaysian rail-babbler is also included, the name Eupetidae Bonaparte, 1850 has priority.[3]

The Malaysian rail-babbler has now been shown to be unrelated to the others, probably being an early offshoot of the Passerida.[5] Another study found the quail-thrushes and jewel-babblers to be related to each other but did not show them to have a close relationship with Psophodes or Ifrita.[6]


Whipbirds and wedgebills are 19–31 cm long. They are mainly olive-green or brown in colour and have a crest.[7]

The quail-thrushes and jewel babblers are medium-sized songbirds, 17–28 cm in length.[8][7] They have strong legs and bills. Males and females often differ in plumage markings. The quail-thrushes are largely brown above, the colour varying to provide camouflage against the soil, but are more boldly marked with black and white below.[7] Jewel-babblers usually have extensive blue in their plumage.[8] Most species have loud, distinctive songs.[9]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The whipbirds and wedgebills are all found in Australia, occurring in a range of habitats from rainforest to arid scrub.[7] The western whipbird is considered to be near-threatened because of habitat loss and fires while the Papuan whipbird is classed as data deficient.[10][11]

Jewel-babblers are found on New Guinea and the neighbouring islands of Yapen, Batanta, Misool and Salawati.[8] They occur in forest, generally replacing each other at different altitudes. The painted quail-thrush is also found in the forests of New Guinea.[8] The other quail-thrushes are restricted to Australia where they are found in drier habitats, occurring in open forest, scrub and on stony ground.[7] None of the species are thought to be threatened but one subspecies of the spotted quail-thrush is possibly extinct.[12]


Chestnut-backed quail-thrush (Cinclosoma castanotum)

They are terrestrial birds which fly fairly weakly and prefer to squat or run when disturbed.[1] They forage on the ground feeding mainly on insects and other invertebrates.[9] In the desert, quail-thrushes also eat some seeds.[1]

They build a cup-shaped nest among shrubs or on the ground. Two or three eggs are laid.[9]

Species list[edit]

Eastern whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus)


  1. ^ a b c Roberson, Don (2004) Quail-thrushes Cinclosomatidae, Bird Families of the World. Accessed 4 January 2010.
  2. ^ Howard, Richard & Alick Moore (1980) A complete checklist of the Birds of the World, 1st ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. ^ a b Christidis, Les & Walter Boles (2008) Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds, CSIRO Publishing.
  4. ^ Sibley's Sequence: Passeriformes. Accessed 4 January 2010.
  5. ^ Jønsson, K.A., J. Fjeldså, P.G.P. Ericson, and M. Irestedt (2007) Systematic placement of an enigmatic Southeast Asian taxon Eupetes macrocerus and implications for the biogeography of a main songbird radiation, the Passerida, Biology Letters 3(3):323–326.
  6. ^ Norman, Janette A., Per G.P. Ericson, Knud A. Jønsson, Jon Fjeldså & Les Christidis (2009) A multi-gene phylogeny reveals novel relationships for aberrant genera of Australo-Papuan core Corvoidea and polyphyly of the Pachycephalidae and Psophodidae (Aves: Passeriformes), Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 52:488–497.
  7. ^ a b c d e Pizzey, Graham & Frank Knight (1997) Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, HarperCollins, London, UK.
  8. ^ a b c d Coates, Brian J. & William S. Peckover (2001), Birds of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago: a photographic guide, Dove Publications, Alderley, Australia.
  9. ^ a b c Perrins, Christopher, ed. (2004) The New Encyclopedia of Birds, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  10. ^ BirdLife International (2009) ["Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-12-13. /datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=5609&m=0 Species factsheet: Psophodes nigrogularis]. Downloaded from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-12-13.  on 4 January 2010.
  11. ^ BirdLife International (2009) ["Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-12-13. /datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=5607&m=0 Species factsheet: Androphobus viridis]. Downloaded from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-07-10. Retrieved 2012-12-13.  on 4 January 2010.
  12. ^ Department for Environment and Heritage (2008) Cinclosoma punctatum anachoreta Spotted Quail-thrush. Accessed 4 January 2010.

External links[edit]