Fun Thornbird Facts For Kids | Kidadl


Fun Thornbird Facts For Kids

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The thornbird refers to nine species of birds under the genus Phacellodomus. They all belong to the family Furnariidae and are native to South America. The geographical range of various species of thornbirds includes central Bolivia, northern Argentina, and parts of Paraguay. Thornbirds are usually small in size, with the smallest bird in this genus measuring between 5-5.5 in (13-14 cm).

Thornbirds have various kinds of calls and songs which can be used to differentiate between the species. They are non-migratory in nature and lead sedentary lifestyles. Thornbirds mainly feed on invertebrates like insects and arthropods. They are seen foraging in pairs or small groups. During the breeding season, thornbirds build their nest using various materials, one of which is thorny sticks. The clutch size varies between two to five eggs. Thornbirds are negatively affected by habitat loss, with the chestnut-backed thornbird being marked as Near Threatened due to considerable degradation of their natural habitat.

To learn more about the thornbird, keep reading! You can also check out house finch and barn owl.

Fun Thornbird Facts For Kids

What do they prey on?

Arthropods and insects

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

2-5 eggs

How much do they weigh?

0.4-1.7 oz (14-51 g)

How long are they?

5-8 in (13-21 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Greater thornbird: Brown upperparts and whitish underparts Freckle-breasted thornbird: Reddish-brown upperparts and dull brownish-white underparts

Skin Type


What were their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Chestnut-backed thornbird: Near Threatened Greater thornbird: Least Concern

Where you'll find them?

Grasslands, Shrublands, And Woodlands


South America









Thornbird Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a thornbird?

The thornbird is a kind of bird with several species classified under its genus Phacellodomus.

What class of animal does a thornbird belong to?

Thornbirds belong to the class Aves. They are members of the order Passeriformes and family Furnariidae.

How many thornbirds are there in the world?

Some of the species of thornbirds have well-documented information on population size. The streak-fronted thornbird (Phacellodomus striaticeps) and spot-breasted thornbird (Phacellodomus maculipectus) both have stable populations. However, unfortunately, only 6,000-15,000 chestnut-backed thornbirds are remaining, with a decreasing trend in their population.

Where does a thornbird live?

Thornbirds are endemic to South America with varied ranges. For instance, the little thornbird is mainly found in southern Bolivia, northern Argentina, and western Paraguay. The spot-breasted thornbird is seen in central Bolivia and parts of Argentina.

What is a thornbird's habitat?

The habitat of thornbirds is characterized by shrublands, grasslands, and woodlands. They are generally found near water bodies.

Who does thornbird live with?

Thornbirds can be seen in pairs or small flocks with members of their own species. The little thornbird is also seen in flocks with other bird species.

How long does a thornbird live?

The lifespan of thornbirds is not known. However, most smaller birds of the order Passeriformes live for only a few years.

How do they reproduce?

The typeof reproduction in all the species of thornbirds is the same, though the breeding season may vary. The thornbird nest is usually built using thorny sticks, leaves, barks, and some other materials. The females lay between two to five eggs, depending on the species. For the rufous-fronted thornbird (Phacellodomus rufifrons), the incubation period lasts for 16-17 days before the chicks hatch.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation statuses of all the species of thornbirds have been marked as Least Concern in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN, except for the chestnut-backed thornbird which is marked as Near Threatened. They are threatened due to increased habitat loss.

Thornbird Fun Facts

What does a thornbird look like?

The different thornbird species have different appearances, which are all equally beautiful. The little thornbird (Phacellodomus sibilatrix) has dull brown plumage on its back, a crown with whitish throat and belly regions, and a darker breast. In both the greater and freckle-breasted thornbird species, the birds have brown feathers on the back and pale or dull feathers on the underside of their body. The orange-eyed thornbird (Phacellodomus erythrophthalmus) has a crown and the back feathers are brownish-olive in color, the wings are brown, and the belly region is pale. They have orange eyes.

The thornbird belongs to the family Furnariidae.

How cute are they?

These birds of the family Furnariidae are very cute to look at. The different appearances of the varied species often add to their charm.

How do they communicate?

These birds communicate through various calls and songs. In greater thornbirds, the call resembles a 'check-check' note, while their song is found to have repeated 'chip' notes. In the orange-breasted thornbird (Phacellodomus ferrugineigula), the song has a style of 'ku-kee-kee' tones that may last for nearly 11 seconds when performed in duets.

How big is a thornbird?

In general, thornbirds are not big birds. The little thornbird is the smallest member of the thornbird group and measures between 5-5.5 in (13-14 cm), whereas the body lengths of greater thornbirds and freckle-breasted thornbirds are between 7-8 in (19-21 cm) and 6-8 in (16-20 cm), respectively. Thornbirds do not grow as big as the species of the woodcreeper bird of the same family, which measure between 5.5-13.7 in (14-35 cm).

How fast can a thornbird fly?

Though the exact flight speed of thornbirds is not known, the style of flight in the thornbird species is not very advanced as most of them have small and rounded wings. Additionally, they are non-migratory and do not cover long distances by flying, like the blue jay bird of the family Corvidae.

How much does a thornbird weigh?

Thornbirds are small in size and are found to be quite light in weight. The little thornbird and freckled-breasted thornbird weigh between 0.4-0.5 oz (14-16 g) and 0.8-0.9 oz (24.5-26.5 g), respectively, while the greater thornbird (Phacellodomus ruber) may weigh between 1.2-1.7 oz (34.9-51 g). Both of these species are heavier than the yellow warbler of the family Parulidae.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female birds of this species are known as male thornbirds and female thornbirds.

What would you call a baby thornbird?

A baby thornbird is known as a chick.

What do they eat?

The different thornbird species mainly rely on insects and arthropods for food. The freckled-breasted thornbird (Phacellodomus striaticollis) is found to feed on insects like shield bugs, grasshoppers, and squash bugs. They search for their prey on the ground and amongst vegetation. The chestnut-backed thornbird may forage on branches.

Are they dangerous?

There are no instances to suggest that thornbirds may be dangerous to humans.

Would they make a good pet?

Thornbirds are not suitable to be kept as pets as they are near threatened due to loss of habitat and they are wild animals.

Did you know...

The thornbird myth suggests when a thornbird finds the ideal thorn tree, the bird impales itself on a thorn and slowly dies while singing.

Are thornbirds Endangered?

Most of the species of thornbirds are marked as Least Concern in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. However, the chestnut-backed thornbird (Phacellodomus dorsalis) has the status of Near Threatened. Increased cultivation has resulted in greater habitat loss for this bird. Though the other thornbirds are not Endangered, some of them do have decreasing trends in population, mainly due to habitat loss.

Do thornbirds sing just once a year?

It is common to see thornbirds sing more than once a year. Their main method of communication is through calls and songs. The streak-fronted thornbird (Phacellodomus striaticeps) song has 'cheet', and 'tsidit' notes that they often perform in pairs. Greater thornbirds are found to perform duets in an aggressive style to signify the presence of any intruder. Vocalizations in all thornbird species last for some seconds.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our wandering albatross facts and least tern facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable thornbird coloring pages.

Written By
Moumita Dutta

Moumita is a multilingual content writer and editor. She has a PostGraduate Diploma in sports management, which enhanced her sports journalism skills, as well as a degree in journalism and mass communication. She's good at writing about sports and sporting heroes. Moumita has worked with many soccer teams and produced match reports, and sports is her primary passion.

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