Fleurieu Peninsula Southern Emu-wren  |  

Stipiturus malachurus intermedius

Status: Endangered on the EPBC Act list

The Southern Emu-wren (Fleurieu Peninsula) has an overall length of approximately 16-18 cm, including the exceptionally long tail of about 10-11 cm. Body mass is generally 7-8 g. It is sexually dimorphic, i.e. males and females differ in appearance. In the male, the upper-parts are grey-brown (grey tone most prominent around the neck) with thick dark brown to black streaks, extending from the crown to the rump, and a rufous-brown forehead. The eye-brow, throat and upper breast are a pale, light blue (and unlike some other sexually dimorphic Australian wrens, the blue plumage is retained throughout the year). The underparts are light brown or tawny-brown except for the belly, which is white. The female is similar to the male in appearance, but has: (1) a light grey-brown to olive-grey forehead (reddish-brown or rufous-brown in the male); (2) yellow-brown on the eye-brow, throat and upper-breast (pale blue in the male); and (3) more prominent streaking on the upperparts, particularly on the crown and forehead. These differences are apparent from the time the young leave the nest, with juvenile males able to be distinguished by the pale grey-blue colouring to the eye-brow, throat and upper-breast. In general, juveniles can be distinguished from adult birds by the short and still growing flight feathers, the shorter tail, and the paler colouring to the bill, which also has a pale, fleshy gape when juveniles are very young. Juvenile males can be distinguished from adult males by the paler, grey-blue colouring on the eye-brow, throat and upper breast, and the heavy blackish streaking on the forehead. The intensity of the blue plumage and the degree of streaking on the forehead reach an adult level by approximately three months of age, at which point juvenile males become essentially indistinguishable from adult males when viewed in the field. Differences between juvenile and adult females are likely to be similar to those apparent in subspecies malachurus. During the breeding season, older juvenile females can be distinguished from adult females by the absence of a brood patch. The Southern Emu-wren (Fleurieu Peninsula) is usually seen in pairs or family groups during the breeding season, and in pairs outside of the breeding season. It may also occur in small groups: in the breeding season, groups are formed when pairs or families loosely coalesce at the boundaries of their home ranges; outside of the breeding season, groups are formed when pairs and recruits come together. The Southern Emu-wren (Fleurieu Peninsula) is socially monogamous, and breeds in dispersed (i.e. solitary) pairs. More generally, emu-wrens Stipiturus are insectivorous passerines that have a characteristic tail comprised of six long, emu-like feathers. They have short, rounded wings and are relatively poor fliers. They tend to hop, flutter, and scramble through their habitat, which is characterised by dense, low vegetation. The usual calls consist of very high-pitched trills, though louder and harsher ‘buzzing’ calls are given when birds are alarmed.

Government evidence of impact of climate change:

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  • Australian Government, Conservation Advice, Stipiturus malachurus intermedius

    Wildfire is a major ongoing threat to the southern emu wren (Fleurieu Peninsula) as all populations and habitats are potentially at risk (MLRSERT 1998).
    Flood Flooding in potential Clearing and grazing of habitat along the outer edges of river restricted systems; including Tookayerta Creek and Finniss River; may be streamside forcing emu wrens to nest closer to the main channels in narrow habitat riparian buffer zones and increasing the risk of nests adults being patches lost if the banks flood (MLRSERT 1998).