Pedionomus torquatus

Victorian Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Plains-wanderers are losing their habitat as native grasslands are swallowed by agriculture and housing developments. Pesticides that build up in the food chain may also be a threat. The ongoing drought is another concern for the species.

Did you know?


  • are the only living members of an ancient group of birds
  • survive without a permanent water supply by drinking dew drops
  • lay their eggs in a hollow in the ground
  • are omnivores, they eat seeds, insects and spiders
  • are 15–19cm high

Where they live

Plains-wanderers are native to south-eastern Australian grasslands, but their original wide distribution has shrunk to a few isolated regions.

Plains-wanderers are native to south-eastern Australian grasslands, but their original wide distribution has shrunk to a few isolated regions.

Amazing Plains-wanderers

Plains-wanderers are small ground-dwelling birds with a lanky appearance and distinctive, upright posture. There are between 2500 and 8000 birds left and there is concern that some populations may be too small to remain viable.

Camouflaged against the dry grasses and reddish soils of their habitat, Plains-wanderers are very difficult to see during the day. They have long, yellow legs and mottled brown plumage. Females have a beautiful black and white collar pattern and a patch of rusty-coloured feathers on their breasts.

Plains-wanderers prefer sparse grasslands with a combination of bare ground and low plant cover. Invasive agricultural plants create terrain that is too dense for the birds, while heavy grazing keeps plants too low to provide protection from predators.

Female Plains-wanderers lay about four eggs in the nest, then leave the male to incubate and raise the chicks.

Despite appearing and behaving like a quail, the Plains-wanderer is actually more closely related to wading birds in South America. This strange relationship is the result of the connection of the two continents as part of Gondwana more than 60 million years ago.

A recovery plan for this species includes protecting habitat from cultivation and weed invasion and securing a strong population in Victoria.

Other Victorian grassland animals 

Explore the Victorian environments

Trees along a river bank

Dry forest

There are many types of dry forests in Victoria including stringybark, red gum, grassy woodlands and the remnants of the once great box–ironbark forests.

Birds stand on black rocks in water

Coastal wetlands

Victoria’s coastal wetlands are significant places for wildlife, with many listed in international conventions to protect the habitat of migratory birds.

Snow covered mountains


The Victorian Alps extend from the plateaus of Lake Mountain and Mt Baw Baw to peaks such as Mt Feathertop and the headwaters of the Murray River.

Plains Flax Lily


When the first Europeans arrived in Victoria there were grasslands on the vast, undulating western plains, on the northern plains and in Gippsland.

Mallee vegetation


The Victorian Mallee in the north-western corner of the state has a mosaic of vegetation types adapted to low rainfall and sandy soils.

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