What is this bird?

Mystery bird, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

Mystery bird, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

What is this bird?

During my visit to the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra early this year I saw the bird shown in the photograph above.

Even though it is a reasonable photo, I am at a loss to determine the species. It was  not happy with me being there taking a series of photos.  I heard several others but they failed to show themselves. The photo was taken in the fern gully near the entrance to the gardens. Below I’ve included several more photos of the habitat.

At first I thought they were White-browed Scrubwrens, but the call was wrong and there is no prominent white eye-brow.

The closest I can come to identification is Large-billed Scrubwren, but that species is not listed on the bird list for the gardens. Birds Australia atlas site is no help either.

Can any one help me? Leave your suggestions in the comments, or use the contact form.

UPDATE: I put out a request on the Birding-Aus and Canberra Birds newsgroups yesterday asking for help with identification of this bird. I had about 15 people reply and all but one said it was a juvenile White-browed Scrubwren. The mystery has been solved. Thanks everyone. I’ve published some pertinent responses in the comments below.

Fern gully, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

Fern gully, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

Ferns in the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra

Ferns in the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra


6 Responses to “What is this bird?”

  1. Julian says:

    I’d go for a juv white-browed scrubwren. I’m no expert and happy to be corrected, but in my experience everything mysterious turns out to be prosaic!

    I’ve never seen an immature WBSW of any age, but this bird looks very young by short wings and tail, and it looks like a scrubwren, and it has a bit of a white brow.

  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks for commenting Julian. I’ve had about 15 replies to my query via Birding-Aus and Canberra Birds. All but one are adamant it is a juvenile White-browed Scrubwren. My first instinctive thought turned out to be correct!

  3. Trevor says:

    This comment was first published on Birding-Aus.

    Hi Trevor, It’s a juvenile White-browed Scrubwren. Pale eye is I gather a reflection from the flash on the camera. All other markings are consistent with a white-browed SW. It looks like a young bird because it is particularly plain for this species (more so than an adult female). It also looks a little fluffy and has a pale base to the bill that I would in part think is the remnant of a fleshy gape which also support ageing this individual as a juvenile.
    Rohan Clarke

  4. Trevor says:

    The following comments came to me via Canberra Birds newsgroup:


    It looks to me like a juvenile White-browed Scrubwren. I think I can
    just make out the barest of developing chevron markings on the wing. The
    call could have been a begging call. White-browed Scrubwren is by far
    the most likely for that location.

    Definitely not a Large-billed Scrubwren. As far as I am aware, I am the
    only one to claim to have seen a Large-billed in the ACT, about 5 years
    ago, but my record was knocked back by the Rarities Panel of the
    Canberra Ornithologists Group.


    Harvey Perkins
    CRC Strategy and Communication Section

  5. Liane says:

    Thanks for this. I have one that has started visiting my garden in the last few weeks. Ngunnawal. January 2014

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