Rufous Bristlebird, Dasyornis broadbenti

Neville William Cayley1936 - 1937

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria
Carlton, Australia

This watercolour of the Rufous Bristlebird, Dasyornis broadbentii, by Neville William Cayley depicts an adults feeding its young.

This species was first described by Sir Frederick McCoy in Annals of Natural History in 1867, wherin he named the species Sphenura broadbenti in honour of the collector Kendall Braodbent who had presented the specimen to Museum Victoria. Broadbent had 'shot it in December 1858 in dense scrub twenty-four miles from Portland Bay in south-western Victoria.""

McCoy sent this specimen to Gould, who published the first illustration of the species in the Supplement to the Bird of Australia. Gould acknowledging: 'My thanks are by hereby tended to Professor McCoy and the Governors of the National Museum at Melbourne, for their liberality in sending to London, for my use, the only specimen of this bird which has as yet been discovered, and which I consider to be one of the most important and interesting species that the colony of Victoria has unfolded to us...""

"My Plate, which represents the bird in two positions, will enable ornithologists, both in Australia and elsewhere, to form a just conception of this rare avis. Many other new species of birds will doubtless yet come to light when the dense scrubby portions of Australia are more closely investigated than they have yet been. Many peculiar physical features characterize that great southern land; and each has to be closely searched before we can gain a complete knowledge of its inhabitants."

This watercolour of the species was used in the next stage of that growing knowledge. In 1936 H.M. Whittell Cayley published a review of the species and this watercolour accompanied the article in The Emu, the journal of the Royal Australasian Ornithologist Union. Cayley was perhaps best known for his field guide to Australian birds, What Bird is That? (1931) which featured full colour illustrations."


  • Title: Rufous Bristlebird, Dasyornis broadbenti
  • Creator Lifespan: 1886 - 1950
  • Creator Nationality: Australian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Creator Birth Place: Yamba, New South Wales, Australia
  • Date Created: 1936 - 1937
  • Type: Image
  • Rights: Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Neville W Cayley, Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Neville W Cayley
  • External Link: Museum Victoria Collections
  • Medium: Watercolour on paper
  • Themes: Artworks
  • Artist biography: Neville William Cayley, ornithologist and artist, was born in 1886 at Yamba, Clarence River, New South Wale. Son of natural history artist Neville Henry Pennington Cayley, Neville William Cayley showed a natural affinity for painting, much like his father, and specialised in birds during his art training. In 1918 he published his first booklet, 'Our Birds', and displayed the 'somewhat romantic' originals in the Hunter Street gallery of the art dealer William Aldenhaven. He published a botanic booklet, 'Our Flowers', in 1920. Increasingly interested in ornithology, he became associated with George Robertson and illustrated birds' eggs for 'The Australian Encyclopaedia' (1925-26). Cayley's popular book 'What Bird is That?' was published in 1931 and remains a bestseller. He followed it with 'Australian Finches in Bush and Aviary' (1932), 'Budgerigars in Bush and Aviary' (1933), 'Australian Parrots' (1938) and 'The Fairy Wrens of Australia' (1949). Cayley 'was irresistibly attracted by the brilliant colours' and 'elfin forms' of the wrens; the illustrations first appeared in the National Geographic Magazine (October 1945). He also did the colour drawings for G. A. Waterhouse's 'What Butterfly is That?' (1932) and Ellis Troughton's 'Furred Animals of Australia' (1941). His grand project covering all Australia's birds, their habits, nests and eggs was never completed, although he amassed over 500 colour illustrations. A devoted naturalist, he was a council member of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales (president 1932-33), the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union (president 1936-37), the Gould League of Bird Lovers and the Wildliife Preservation Society of Australia, and was a trustee of the National Parks in 1937-48. In 1932 one of his works was presented to King George V. He was a founder of the Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club and a member of the executive of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia and the Royal Life Saving Society. Cayley died at his Avalon home on 17 March 1950. He was survived by two sons by his first wife (who predeceased him by several years), his widow and two stepdaughters.
  • Artist: Neville William Cayley

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