Fun Tasmanian Native Hen Facts For Kids

Oluwatosin Michael
Feb 20, 2024 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Sep 02, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Kidadl Team
Check out these interesting Tasmanian native hen facts to know more about this flightless bird.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.2 Min

The Tasmanian native hen (Tribonyx mortierii) is a flightless bird that is only found in the Australian island state of Tasmania. This bird species was also found in the Australian mainland 4,700 years ago, but it is said that its population there suffered because of predators and unsuitable climate. Except for Tasmania, it is now only found on Maria Island located off the eastern coast of Tasmania, where it was introduced many years ago. This bird is also called by the names of Tasmanian native hen, Markie, turbo chook, or waterhen. They are known for their brown head, back, and wings, black tail, bright red eyes, and a large yellow bill. Their legs are strong and gray in color, and they also have gray underparts. These birds are one of the 12 species of birds that are endemic to Tasmania and are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. The black-tailed native hen (Tribonyx ventralis), of the same genus, is a very similar species to the Tasmanian native hens due to their similar appearance, except for some minor differences. Moreover, these much smaller black-tailed native hens are found only on the Australian mainland.

If you want to know more about other birds, check out our blue grouse fun facts and crested duck fun facts pages.

Tasmanian Native Hen Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Tasmanian native hen?

The Tasmanian native hen is a type of bird.

What class of animal does a Tasmanian native hen belong to?

The Tasmanian native hens belong to the class Aves, family Rallidae, and genus Tribonyx.

How many Tasmanian native hens are there in the world?

The exact population of this species of native hens is currently unknown. However, they have a wide distribution within their geographic range.

Where does a Tasmanian native hen live?

The Tasmanian native hen is found in the open pastures and grasslands of Tasmania, the island state located south of the Australian mainland. This bird is found pretty much everywhere on the island other than its southwestern region. Other than Tasmania, these birds are also found on Maria Island. They were found on the mainland 4,700 years ago, but their population is suspected to have become extinct there because of unsuitable climate and the arrival of their predators, dingoes.

What is a Tasmanian native hen's habitat?

The Tasmanian native hen mostly prefers open pastures, grasslands, and wetlands that are close to the water. They will inhabit pretty much any open area in Tasmania that has ample vegetation for them to hide and build their nests on. These birds need clear areas, like short grazed pastures, to forage and feed on, for which they depend on other species like sheep or cattle.

Who do Tasmanian native hens live with?

The turbo chook (Tribonyx mortierii) lives in a group of two to five other birds of its species. This group is speculated to form for breeding purposes and usually consists of one female, some male birds, and juveniles of up to one year of age. Since it is a flightless bird species, the group remains sedentary and holds a territory, which it defends against other birds quite aggressively.

How long does a Tasmanian native hen live?

The exact lifespan of this bird is currently unknown. However, their generation length is 5.9 years, which is the average number of years between two consecutive generations of a species.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season of this bird species occurs from July to September. The female hen of the group will breed with all the other males and lay three to nine eggs in the months of August to November. The nests are located near water from grass and other vegetation. After three weeks of incubation, the eggs hatch, and the chicks are taken care of by both the parents. Nursery nests are also made for roosting chicks. Both types of nests are made in such a manner that they are hidden from any predators.

What is their conservation status?

Despite the extremely small range across which they are distributed, the Tasmanian native hens are present in large numbers in Tasmania and thus, have been classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.

Tasmanian Native Hen Fun Facts

What do Tasmanian native hens look like?

The Tasmanian native hen (Tribonyx mortierii) is a beautiful bird with a dark brown head, back, and wings. Its plumage is mostly slate gray colored on the underparts with a bluish tinge, and it has a vertical white patch on its side. It has a short black tail that it flicks to warn others in its group about danger. This flightless bird also has a large yellow bill and bright red eyes. Its gray-colored legs look strong and sturdy to support its heavy body. The black-tailed native hen, a similar species, has only a couple of visible differences from this bird, that is, their eyes are yellow instead of red and their legs are red instead of gray.

The Tasmanian native hen has brown plumage, gray legs, bright red eyes, and a yellow bill.

How cute are they?

The Tasmanian native hens, with their sleek brown plumage and gray legs, can look equal parts intimidating and cute.

How do they communicate?

The Tasmanian native hens live in groups of two to five and are known to protect their territory from other birds with their loud bird call. They have 14 separate calls, ranging from loud rasping sounds to a high-pitched alarm call. They also flick their tails to warn others in the group of potential danger.

How big is a Tasmanian native hen?

The Tasmanian native hens can range from 17-20 in (43-51 cm) in length and can have a height of 17.7 in (45 cm). They are just a little bigger in length than the common moorhen.

How fast can a Tasmanian native hen fly?

This species cannot fly at all as they are flightless birds but they are supported by their strong and sturdy legs that enable them to run at high speeds. They are also considered great swimmers.

How much does a Tasmanian native hen weigh?

This flightless bird is a heavy-bodied creature and can weigh around 2.6-2.8 lb (1.2-1.3 kg), and thus, are two times heavier than a harlequin duck.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for the male and female birds of this species.

What would you call a baby Tasmanian native hen?

A baby Tasmanian native hen can be called a chick. They are fuzzy and black in color. When they grow a little more but are not mature adults yet, they can be called juveniles. These juveniles remain in the territory they were born in for about a year before separating from the other adults to make their own territory.

What do they eat?

This bird species is herbivorous and feeds on grasses, herbs, seeds, and sometimes insects. They prefer grazing on a pasture that has already been grazed on before by other species. Thus, the introduction of agricultural cultivation, clear areas, and other species like cattle and rabbits,  has helped improve the availability of food for these flightless birds. Years ago, before European settlement, this clearing of land would have been done by the Indigenous practice of burning the land to provide more feeding grounds to mammals.

Are they dangerous?

This species of bird is not known to be particularly dangerous to human beings. They will violently fight other birds for invading their territory or breeding area in order to protect their eggs and nest but are known to be shy and nervous when approached by humans in their natural habitat.

Would they make a good pet?

They are a protected species under Tasmanian Legislation, so therefore it is illegal to have these animals as pets. However, the only people who can obtain a special permit to keep them are landowners who need to prevent the destruction of crops. But, Recreational Game Licences are not given in the case of Tasmanian Native Hens.

Did you know...

This species of Tasmanian endemic birds would give anyone the impression that their numbers in their small range would be declining. However, the habit of these birds to feed on pastures and seeds has helped their population so much that they are sometimes considered an agricultural pest!

How fast can a native hen run?

Although flightless, these birds have the capability to run at high speeds of 30 mph (48 kph). They do so while spreading their wings, which helps them balance their body better while running, and also enables them to make quick and sharp turns if they are being chased by a predator.

Are native hens protected in Tasmania?

Some years ago, the Tasmanian native hen was one of the only four species of birds endemic to Tasmania out of a total of 12 birds endemic to Tasmania, that were not protected under legislation. However, it is now listed as protected under the island state's Nature Conservation Act, 2002, along with most of the 12 species endemic to Tasmania.

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 African pygmy goose facts or Australian pelican interesting facts pages.

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

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Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

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