Tasmanian native hen

Tasmanian native hen
Image: JJ Harrison
Community type

Reed swamp

Habitat type

Tidal wetlands and macrophytes beds

Tasmanian native hens are endemic to this state, and are most common on wetlands and near fresh water streams and rivers. They used to be common on mainland Australia, but disappeared after the dingo arrived – along with the thylacine and Tasmanian Devil. Their ideal habitat is short pasture near streams with tall sedges and rushes nearby for shelter and protection during the night time, and when nesting. Although they cannot fly native hens are good swimmers and very fast runners. During running they use their short wings for balance and can reach up to 50 km per hour. Native hens are very social and use a number of calls to communicate with family groups. They usually feed at dawn and dusk on grasses and seeds. They lay up to 10 eggs twice a year in a good season, or one brood of about 5 eggs in poorer seasons. They need to lay plenty of eggs, as relatively few chicks live to adulthood. Native hens and their eggs are preyed upon by quolls and Tasmanian Devils, kookaburras, ravens, gulls and birds of prey like swamp harriers. Other cryptic waterbirds common to the Derwent estuary wetlands include Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Lewin’s Crake, Spotless Rail and Australian Rail. Listen to native hen calls here.

Much of the text within the species area of our website was written by Veronica Thorpe, as part of the Derwent River Wildlife Guide (2000).

The DEP has developed a variety of classroom and outdoor activities focused around the key estuary habitats of tidal wetlands, salt marshes and rocky reefs. These include classroom materials, online resources, interpretive walks, games and sensory experiences.