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Orthonychidae – Logrunners

Papuan Logrunner in Indonesia: Photo by Jonathan Slifkin

The Orthonychidae family comprises three species found in the rainforests of eastern Australia and New Guinea. These ground-dwelling birds are known for their unique foraging behavior, using their strong legs and feet to flick aside leaf litter in search of insects and other invertebrates. Shy and often heard more than seen, their calls echo through the dense forest undergrowth where they live and breed.

Overview of Orthonychidae

Logrunners, enigmatic denizens of the wet forests of eastern Australia and New Guinea, spend most of their time on the ground, foraging for invertebrates in the forest litter with lateral movements of their strong legs. This unusual leg movement, distinct from the fore-and-aft movements typical of other passerines, has left a distinctive signature on their skeletal anatomy, making even a single leg bone recognizable in fossil deposits. With reduced flight musculature, orthonychids seldom fly far, likely spending their entire lives in a small patch of rainforest floor.