Tassie’s Turbo Chooks

The Tasmanian Native Hen is one of 12 bird species endemic to Tasmania and is commonly referred to as a turbo chook.

The native hen is a flightless rail and commonly seen all over Tasmania with the exception of the south west area. They are frequently seen (and heard!) in grassy areas close to water.

So why are they called a chook? A chook is an Australian colloquialism for hen, and if you watch these birds foraging, they do resemble a chicken as they graze on grass shoots during the day.

And why the term turbo chooks? Although they can’t fly, they can run very fast! This bird has been clocked running at 48 kmph (30 mph)!! When they run, they hold their wings out for balance and are able to make tight turns to avoid a predator. The birds and their chicks are preyed upon by Tasmanian devils, quolls, gulls, kookaburras, ravens, and hawks.

Here’s a video of a native hen taking a bath early one foggy morning.

Native hens have 14 separate calls, ranging from low growls to high pitched calls. I captured one of their calls in this video. Usually, when one bird makes this noise, others join in and they make a very loud raucous which can be heard a long distance away. People often say this call sounds like sawing metal, what do you think?

I often hear many of these birds making this noise at night about a kilometre away!

Native hens live in groups of 5 plus juveniles who stay with the group and help care for the next lot of young until the juveniles are old enough to move away to find another territory, some even stay with the group.

Each group has a territory of about 5 acres (2 hectares) and they fiercely defend it. You can often see fights break out where birds kick and peck each quite violently and the native hens come running from everywhere to watch.

Native hen chicks are black and fluffy. A day after hatching, they are already running along with the parents and starting to feed themselves.

Too cute!

5 thoughts on “Tassie’s Turbo Chooks

  1. A truly interesting post and well researched Sue, with great photos and footage. They are amazing how fast they run, I know we had trouble getting good shots because they run away so fast when they see you. You have some lovely shots of the chicks also.

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