In late December 2003, a wildfire in the Jervis Bay region of New South Wales burned through an area that previously supported a large population of the endangered eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus). The eastern bristlebird has been described as fire-sensitive, and fire is implicated in the decline of the species. The frequency of occurrence of bristlebirds was investigated in the second week after the fire in a range of sites varying in fire intensity. Bristlebirds were found in burned habitats but were less common in the sites that were more intensely burnt. Bristlebirds had been surveyed along transects in this area two months before this fire and were surveyed again 1, 9 and 13 months after the fire. Compared with prefire numbers, bristlebird numbers decreased in burnt areas after the fire and increased in unburnt areas. This pattern was evident for up to nine months after the fire, after which bristlebird numbers returned towards prefire levels in both burnt and unburnt vegetation. This is in contrast to some previous research on bristlebirds and fire. We suggest that bristlebirds avoided the fire by moving to unburnt areas and returned later when conditions were more suitable. We consider that the apparently slight impact of this fire on bristlebirds was due to the close proximity of unburnt habitat and other refuges. The response of bristlebirds and presumably other birds to fire is likely to be strongly context-dependent, so fire management may be able to be designed so as to be compatible with the conservation of local bristlebird populations.