Birds of the World-7  Grasswrens.  Introduction.

In this series of articles we look at the birds that belong to a certain genera. The species in these genera take us to all parts of the world. Here we look at a group of birds that are collectively known as the Grasswrens,and our journey takes us to Australia. They are placed in the genus Amytornis, in the family of birds known as the Maluridae within the Large order of birds known as the Passeriformes  {perching birds}. 

We commence with the Grey Grasswreb Amytornis barbatus. 

Grey Grasswren.

Courtesy of Davidgregsmith.   CC BY-SA 4.0 International License.

The Grey Grasswren. Amytornis barbatus.

The Grey Grasswren is a native to Australia. It is a shy elusive bird and rarely seen. Indeed, it was first sighted in 1921,and not taxomically described until 1968. Its grey colour and very long tail helps to distinguish this species from other Grasswrens.

This species is a small bird weighing between fourteen and twenty two grams, and is between eighteen and twenty centimeters long {seven and a quarter-eight inches}. Its general plumage colour is a ginger brown suffused with grey and a few dull white striations.. The under parts are whitish. The crown and face are white with black flecks,with a prominent eye stripe from the bill through the eye to the back of the head. The tail is very long for the size of the bird.{ see image above}

Breeding habits.

There is little known about the breeding habits of this species.  However, it is thought that breeding commences between July and August,usually after a period of floods or of heavy rain. The nest is a semi-domed structure usually located in Cane-grass,not far up from the ground level. Although the structure is relatively large,it is always well camouflaged. It is a loose construction with means of entry at the side.

Two eggs are the usual number that form the clutch, they are dull white speckled and spotted all over with reddish brown markings. The incubation period lasts for about thirteen to fifteen days and the female alone undertakes the task.Both parents feed the nestlings on a diet of insects. The diet of the adult birds includes seeds, supplemented by insects and other small invertebrates.

There are no current conservation concerns, on the population as a whole, however, in New South Wales, the Grey Grasswren is listed as endangered, while in Queensland the species is considered to be rare. 

Striated Grasswren. Taken at the Gluepot Reserve Australia.

Courtesy of Tony Morris { Kent UK.} CC BY 2.0 Generic License.

Striated Grasswren. Amytornis striatus.

The Striated Grasswren is a small wren- like bird, a ground dwelling species endemic to Australia. This species is a slim, long-tailed Grasswren,with a slender pointed bill. The general plumage colour varies across its range and is adapted to the local rock and sand colouring. They have short,rounded wings, soft red-brown above,streaked or striated white,there is an orange buff eye brow. The throat is white striated and there is a black stripe forming a semi-moustache. The under parts are a buffish colour. The legs are dark grey.

The female has a brighter rufous flank patch. They seldom maintain long flights,they typically hop or flit from perch to perch as they forage. They also run on the ground. 

Although this species is widespread their range as with other Grasswren species, is disjointed. They feed on insects and other small invertebrate gleaned from the foliage or among leaf litter, but also on seeds from plants such as those of Triodia. They are often observed feeding among other species.

Breeding habits of the Striated Grasswren.

It is thought that this species breeds between July and November, but it may well vary to coincide with local sufficient rainfall. The nest itself is a bulky domed structure composed of Spinifex spines,lined with strips of bark,grass, plant down and feathers. It is often located near to the ground and well concealed.

The female will deposit two rarely three eggs, which are a rounded shape of a white to pinkish white colour. They are lightly marked with purple reddish spots and blotches congregating  mainly at the large end of the shell. The female undertakes the task of incubation which lasts for a period of thirteen to fourteen days. Both parents feed the resulting chicks which fledge in a further twelve to fourteen days. However, they remain close to the nest for another three to four days and are not fully independent until a further three to four weeks have past.

 Although they are listed as being of least concern by the IUCN, local populations  are under threat from agricultural encroachment, large wild fires and predation from introduced predators such as foxes and domestic cats.

They are listed as being Vulnerable in New South Wales and threatened in Victoria. 

Eyrean Grasswren  Amytornis goyderi.

The Eyrean Grasswren, is a species endemic to the arid regions of central Australia and is named after the south Australian surveyor General Geoerge Woodroffe Goyder. It is quite an uncommon species. It is a bird of about five and a half -six and and a half inches long {14-16.5 cm},with a deep finch-like bill. The adult malehas a head of a reddishcolour with bold white streaks,the neck and upper body a dull rufous brown colour,streaked with dark and white lines. The forehead is rufous the face white  and a thin partial white eye  ring beneath the eye. The chin and throat are off white. The tail is dark grey with touches of white and lighter brown tinges. The upper wings are also dark grey brown but with prominent white shafts and narrow rufous brown fringes. It produces rufous brown patches when the wings are folded.  The under parts are white tinged with abuff brown wash on the flanks through to the legs and under tail. The bill is light blue grey with a darker culmen. The iris is dark brown. The legs and feet are a purplish to dark grey colour.

The female is almost identical but the flanks are a brighter rufous brown. They are also slightly smaller and have a finer bill. 

Breeding---Very little is known as regards the breeding habits of this species. It is known,however, that the female undertakes the task of constructing the nest which takes her about a week or so. The nest is located stranded between tussock stems,and close to the ground. It is made from grasses and is an elongated cup,or domed shaped. It is lined with finer grasses or downy plant material. Two to three eggs form the clutch.

Although there are threats to the species due to habitat loss from over grazing by rabbits and other animals,they are listed as being of least concern by the IUCN. 

Western Grasswren. Taken in western Australia.

Courtesy of sunphio. CC BY-SA 2.0 Liccensesy of sunphio {southern Australia} CC BY -SA 2.0 Generic License


Other species at a glance.

The Western Grasswren Amytornis textilis was formerly referred to as the Textile Grasswren,it was formerly thought to be a sub-species of the Thick-billed Grasswren. It is a shy, mainly ground dwelling bird with a general brown plumage finely streaked with black and white. It has a long slender tail which is often held in an upright position. {see image above}.. The male is slightly larger than the female . Females develop a distinctive chestnut patch on their wings and flanks.

There were three recognized sub-species, one of them is now extinct. The breeding habits are thought to be similar to other Grassrwens. They are classed as being of least concern by the IUCN.

The Dusky Grasswren Amytornis purnelli,can be found in Australia over large ranges and there are no current conservation concerns.

Kalkaddon Grasswren,Amytornis ballarae is also referred to as the Ballara Grasswren. It was formerly treated as a sub-species of the Dusky Grasswren. It has a restricted range being endemic to Spinifex covered hills in the Selwyn Range system of north west Queensland. {Spinifex is a Trioda tussock grass}. 

Dusky Grasswren.

Courtesy of Peter Jacobs {Australia} CC BY-SA 2.0 License. Originally posted to Flickr. Uploaded to Commons via Patko erica

Species with IUCN { International Union for the Conservation of Nature.} conservation concerns.

The White throated Grasswren. Amytornis woodward,is threatened by habitat loss and these birds endemic to Australia are classed as being Vulnerable.

The Carpentarian Grasswren,{endemic to Australia}. The habitat of this species is almost exclusively on top of the sandstone escarpments in the Northern territory. Due, to habitat loss, in the main to fires which are inaccessible, they are classed as being vulnerable.

The Short-tailed Grasswren, Amytornis merrotyi, is found in the temperate shrub-land and rocky areas of Australia. It is classed as being Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Black Grasswren, Amytornis housei, is endemic to north west Australia and is a bird of shrubby vegetation. The eggs and nest of this species was only discovered in 1998. It is an elusive species hiding in the cracks and fissures in sandstone . It is classed as being near threatened by the IUCN. 

Dusky Grasswren.Courtesy of Philip Maher. Standard YouTube License.  Taken in the Alice Springs area Australia.


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