The thornbills are a charming and engaging group of birds when you manage to get close to them. But for beginners they are rather tricky to see – let alone identify. It helps to know what is likely in the area. If you become familiar with them via bird books or smartphone apps you will be able to narrow down the possibilites which makes it easier.
However, with a bit of practice and a little bit of knowledge it is fairly easy to separate the different species. From a distance some species look rather similar. However, always take notice of behaviour and location. Some, like the Striated Thornbill, generally prefer being up in the canopy. The Brown Thornbill tends to be down lower in shrubbery as does the Buff-rumped Thornbill. The Yellow-rumped is more often seen on the ground and its bright yellow tail is obvious when they fly.
Brown Thornbill – side view where breast striations are hard to see
Brown Thornbill – striations are clear on the front. Little marking on the head. Sharp, pointed bill.
Striated Thornbill – this bird is fluffed up after having a bath.
They love coming to bird baths
Another view of the Striated Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill – often seen on the ground.
Distinctive yellow rump – very obvious when they fly.
Buff-rumped Thornbill – rump is more buff than yellow.
Often low down in the foliage and sometimes can be confused with Yellow-rumped at first glance, but facial markings are different.
Yellow Thornbill – another bird of the lower foliage.
Overall impression of yellow
Weebill – often up high like the Striated, but the short, thick bill is diagnostic.
White-browed Scrubwren – prefers low cover. White brow not always obvious, especially in younger birds.