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Species profile—Amytornis dorotheae (Carpentarian grasswren)


Animalia (animals) → Aves (birds) → Maluridae (fairy-wrens, emu-wrens and grasswrens) → Amytornis dorotheae (Carpentarian grasswren)

Species details

Animalia (animals)
Aves (birds)
Maluridae (fairy-wrens, emu-wrens and grasswrens)
Scientific name
Amytornis dorotheae (Mathews, 1914)
Common name
Carpentarian grasswren
WildNet taxon ID
Alternate name(s)
Dorothy's grasswren
red-winged grasswren
Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA) status
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) status
Conservation significant
Pest status
The carpentarian grasswren is a small wren with a moderately long tapered tail. The upper part of the body, from crown to tail, is rufous-chestnut in colour with fine white, darked edged streaks. The breast is white, extending to the belly. Males have a tawny-buff belly and flanks, while the females belly and flanks are chestnut. Both sexes have a rufous brow and a bold black streak from the bill back to the edge of the breast. They are 16-17cm in size. (Mason & Schodde 1988; Pizzey & Knight 1997; Morcombe 2000; Higgins et al. 2001).
Species environment
This species is found among dense large (mature) spinifex Triodia pungens occasionally with sparse Corymibia dichromophloia and shrubs (e.g. acacia) in dissected rocky sandstone ranges and slopes. It is also found in Eucalyptus leucophloia low open woodland with Triodia longiceps/T. modesta and sparse acacia in siltstone ranges and undulating quartzitic plains, with rocky creeklines and boulders. They prefer long-unburnt hummock grass, the rugged terrain in which they live offering natural protection from fire. (Blakers et al. 1984; McKean & Martin 1989; Fleming & Strong 1990; Beruldsen 1992; Harris 1992; Schodde & Mason 1999; Higgins et al. 2001).
Burrows and nests
Nests are bulky, about 12cm in diameter and have a domed roof. They are constructed of grass, spinifex needles and some dry eucalypt and acacia leaves. Nests are well-concealed in the centre of a dry spinifex clump, 20cm-60cm above the ground. (Beruldsen 1980, 2003; Higgins et al. 2001).
The carpentarian grasswren is sedentary (remaining in one area) and locally nomadic in the non-breeding season (possibly over large areas). They are shy and secretive, living as pairs or small family groups (up to 5 birds). The species is largely terrestrial, sometimes sheltering in rock crevices. They are territorial (site faithful) when breeding and territories may be small but well spaced (one per 1km of hillside). (Schodde 1982; Blakers et al. 1984; Whitaker 1987; Mason & Schodde 1988; Pizzey & Knight 1997; Higgins et al. 2001).
Courtship and nest-building usually takes place between August and June, although they may breed in any month if conditions are suitable. Most lay 2-3 eggs between November and March. The females incubate the eggs and one brood is produced each season. The young remain with the family group until the next breeding season. (Beruldsen 1980, 2003; Schodde 1982; Rowley & Russell 1997; Higgins et al. 2001).
The carpentarian grasswren feeds on insects (e.g. beetles), spiders and seeds (dicots and monocots-grasses and sedges) (Schodde 1982; Blakers et al. 1984; Higgins et al. 2001).
Threatening processes
Known : None confirmed.
Suspected : 1. Degradation of habitat due to too frequent and too extensive burning of spinifex (Schodde 1982; Blakers et al. 1984; McKean & Martin 1989).
2. Possible disturbance due to mining and bird watchers (McKean & Martin 1989).
Contributors: David McFarland 26/10/2007; Mellisa Mayhew 16/10/2008; Wayne Martin 5/11/2008.
Beruldsen, G. (1980). A Field Guide to Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds. Rigby : Adelaide.
Beruldsen, G.R. (1993). Another Queensland locality for the Carpentarian Grasswren. Sunbird 22, 49-50.
Beruldsen, G. (2003). Australian Birds their Nests and Eggs. G.Beruldsen : Kenmore Hills, Qld.
Blakers, M., Davies, S.J.J.F. & Reilly, P.N. (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. RAOU & Melbourne University Press : Melbourne.
Fleming, M.R. & Strong, B.W. (1990). The discovery of the Carpentarian Grasswren - the original location. South Australian Ornithologist 31, 50-53.
Garnett, S.T. & Crowley, G. M. (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. Environment Australia : Canberra.
Harris, P.L. (1992). A further Queensland record of the Carpentarian Grasswren. Sunbird 22, 23-24..
Higgins, P.J.; Peter, J.M. & Steele, W.K. (Eds) (2001). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds. Vol. 5: Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Oxford University Press : Melbourne.
Mason, I.J. & Schodde, R. (1988). Carpentarian Grasswren Amytornis dorotheae (Mathews, 1914). In : Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. (Eds Schodde, R. & Tidemann, S.C.), pp. 448. Reader's Digest : Sydney.
McFarland, D.C. (2007). Taxon Profiles Version 2.0: Threatened And Priority Fauna Taxa In Queensland: Biology And Distribution. Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.
Morcombe, M. (2000). Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd, Archerfield.
McKean, J.L. & Martin, K.C. (1989). Distribution and status of the Carpentarian Grasswren Amytornis dorotheae. Northern Territory Naturalist 11, 12-19.
Pizzey, G. & Knight, F. (1997). The Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus & Robertson : Sydney.
Rowley, I. & Russell, E. (1997). Fairy-wrens and Grasswrens : Maluridae. Oxford University Press : Oxford.
Schodde, R. (1982). The Fairy-Wrens. Lansdowne Editions : Melbourne.
Schodde, R. & Mason, I.J. (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. CSIRO Publishing : Collingwood, Victoria.
Whitaker, J. (1987). Some observations on the Carpentarian Grasswren. Northern Territory Naturalist 10, 14-15.
Profile author
David McFarland (05/11/2008)

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Data source

This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0.

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

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Last updated
20 May 2024