Grasswrens at a Glance

A companion post to the Birding Travel September Issue: Grasswrens at a Glance (more to come)


Grasswrens at a Glance

For the full article click here: Birding Travel September 2014 Issue 7

Species Range Best Places to Look Habitat Tips
Gray Grasswren

(Amytornis barbatus)

Central Australia: southwest Qld, northwest SA and northeast NSW. Birdsville Track  between 80 and 90 kms from Birdsville, and Strzelecki Track. Floodplain dominated by lignum and cane grasses, or more open habitats in years of rainfall This species maybe nomadic and is possibly easier to see in drought years when birds retreat to moister refuges.
Black Grasswren

(Amytornis housei)

Northwest Australia: endemic to the Kimberley, Western Australia Merten’s Creek Campground, Surveyor’s Pool, and Bachsten Gorge at Mt. Elizabeth Station Rocky slopes interspersed with spinifex, craggy cliffs and rugged terrain Be well prepared to reach its remote stronghold and leave plenty of time (3 days) to search for it. The species often hides in cracks and crevices during the heat of the day.
White-throated Grasswren (Amytornis woodwardi) Endemic to the Arnhem stone country of the Northern Territories. Kakadu National Park: Jim Jim Falls, otherwise remote sections of Arnhem Land Among mature spinifex atop rugged terraced sandstone plateaus and escarpments. The species has declined and is now difficult to find in a few remaining patches of mature spinifex. Look for them running across open sandstone areas.
Carpentarian Grasswren (Amytornis dorotheae) Only occurs in the Gulf of Carpentaria Region and inland around Mt. Isa, Queensland. Mt. Isa area: Lady Loretta Project road northwest of Mt. Isa. Tropical spinifex country especially in open woodland and along washouts. The other subspecies occurs in rugged sandstone plateaus. Has declined due to recent wildfires, but looking in remaining larger spinifex may bring a lucky sighting. A shy and elusive species. Usually in singles or pairs. The northern subspecies nearing extinction.
Short-tailed Grasswren (Amytornis merrotsyi) Endemic to South Australia. Flinders Range National Park: Stokes Hill Lookout and nearby areas. Open spinifex slopes with little cover and nearby gullies and rocky areas. This species lives in relatively open plains and uniform habitat and is a bit trickier to find than expected. Search for it during days without wind!
Striated Grasswren (Amytornis striatus) Wide-ranging species that can be found in Victoria, Northern Territories Queensland, and South Australia Victoria: Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, Northern Territories: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Spinifex country, either among mallee woodland or open, rocky areas. Relatively broad habitat preferences for a grasswren. Keep track of the different subspecies seen, since future taxonomic splits are likely. Often the first grasswren species a birder sees and a good introduction to this tricky group.
Eyrean Grasswren (Amytornis goyderi) Simpson and Strzelecki deserts in northeast South Austrailia, southwest Queensland, and northwest New South Wales. Birdsville Track: dunes near Mungeranie Roadhouse, Strzelecki Track: Cameron Corner Among cane grass growing atop desert sand dunes and nearby areas. For a grasswren relatively easy to find once the correct habitat is reached, look for footprints on sand dunes to find active territories and follow fairywrens.
Western Grasswren

(Amytornis textilis)

Disjunct populations in Western Australia and South Australia. Whyalla Conservation Park and Monkey Mia. Coastal saltbush plains (chenopod shrubland) with low shrubs. Recently split from Thick-billed Grasswren and overall very similar, hides among dense saltbushes. This species has declined dramatically.
Thick-billed Grasswren

(Amytornis modestus)

South Australia and western New South Wales Strzelecki Track and Coober Pedy area, also along the Oodnadatta Track. Denser saltbush along creeks and drainages in the chenopod shrublands. Not an easy bird to find in its vast stretches of habitat, follow fairywrens in appropriate habitat. This species has very soft calls. This species has declined.
Dusky Grasswren

(Amytornis purnelli)

Central and western Australia, especially in the Northern Territory. West MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs: Pound hike at Ormiston Gorge. Rocky slopes and gullies with a good cover of spinifex and other shrubs. Apparently often along trails. Do not be fooled by its “easy” reputation, this species can take some work to find. Look along well-vegetated gullies, slopes, and creek beds.
Kalkadoon Grasswren

(Amytornis ballarae)

Endemic to the Mt. Isa region of western Queensland. Mt. Isa area: Mica Creek and Sybella Creek along the Diamantina Developmental Road. Steep rocky slopes and creek beds with cover of spinifex and shrubs, seems to prefer rugged terrain. Similar in appearance to the Dusky Grasswren and was formerly considered conspecific. The Kalkadoon is much more secretive and it is important to have enough time to locate the species.

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