Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tasmanian Native-hen

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tasmanian Native-hen ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 2-14-13

The last edition featured the Tasmanian endemic, the Yellow Wattlebird. A former colleague of mine, Gary, who comes from Tasmania, sent me the following recipe from this priceless book by Tasmanian author Marjorie Bligh, and I thought it might interest you, at the risk of putting you off your food.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 1

Marjorie Bligh

Wattle Birds

>“Brush each bird with warm butter after plucking them. (Do not clean birds in any other way; their insides are left intact.) Tie a thin slice of fat bacon over each breast. Put in a fry pan (electric) on a wire grid and cook slowly for 5 to 6 hours. Take off wire grid after 3 to 4 hours and cook in the fat that has dripped off them. Baste often. Serve on buttered toast.”

I Googled Marjorie Bligh and sent this reply to Gary:

Did you know that Marjorie Bligh is the subject of a new book entitled: Housewife Superstar: The Very Best of Marjorie Bligh? She sounds quite a woman.

How’s this for praise:

I don’t think Edna has admired anyone as much as she admires Marjorie Bligh’Barry Humphries

Would you like another Tasmanian endemic for next week’s bird?

Gary, not one to resist throwing down the gauntlet, replied: Yes […] would be especially pleased if you could manage the local endemic sub-species of emu.



This ‘restoration’ by John Keulemans was the best I could do as the request arrived about 160 years too late. So, failing that, here is another flightless Tasmanian endemic, the Tasmanian Native-hen.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 3

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

The bird in the photo is an adult with the characteristic slaty-blue breast, chestnut upper-parts and tail. Unlike the Emu, Tasmanian Native-hens remain quite common in eastern and northern Tasmania where there is plenty of suitable grassy habitat. In pre-historic times they also occurred on the mainland but like the Thylacine and the Tasmanian Devil became extinct relatively recently, perhaps as a result of the introduction of dingos.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 4

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

They are large – up to 50 cm/20 in in length – flightless members of the family Rallidae (which includes moorhens, coots, rails and crakes). Although they can’t fly, they can swim well and can dive to escape from predators. Like other members of the family, the chicks are black and fluffy and active as soon as they are hatched. The third photo shows a young chick under the watchful eye of an adult, already grazing on the young shoots of grass and herbs that are the staple diet of the species. They also eat seeds, invertebrates and small frogs.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 5

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

The bird in the fourth photo is a sub-adult, and has not yet achieved the full colouration of adult birds.

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian 6

Tasmanian Nativehen (Tribonyx mortierii) by Ian

I’d always assumed that Native-hens got their name from their appearance. The Wattle Bird recipe has set me wondering whether the name had more to do with taste!

Best wishes,


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:

Lee’s Addition:

Of all clean birds you may eat. (Deuteronomy 14:11 AMP)

I guess we could add this bird to the “clean birds,” but not sure about cooking it with all its innards. The Tasmanian Nativehen is a member of the Rallidae – Rails, Crakes & Coots Family. The only other Nativehen is the Black-tailed one. See all of Ian’s Rallidae Family.

I trust you are enjoying the Newsletters that Ian sends out and lets me post here are the blog. He is quite a photographer and does a lot of traveling to find interesting birds to share. Thank you, Ian.

Check out all the Bird of the Week articles by Ian. He lives down in Australia.


2 thoughts on “Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tasmanian Native-hen

  1. Okay, I want to be nice here, so all I’ll say is “YUCK!!!”
    Love the articles, but just can’t stomach the idea of cooking any animal with its insides left intact. I would probably make a great vegetarian if I just didn’t love bacon so much. It’s my very favorite meat in all the world, but if I think too long about where it comes from, I have trouble eating it as well.

    I’ll bet this lady has some pretty interesting things to say about homemaking though.


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