Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable as Amytornis modestus
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002 (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2002o) [Recovery Plan] as Amytornis textilis modestus.
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Reduction in Impacts of Tramp Ants on Biodiversity in Australia and its Territories (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006p) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for competition and land degradation by unmanaged goats (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008ada) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by rabbits (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008adh) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Amytornis textilis modestus.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (154) (17/06/2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013t) [Legislative Instrument] as Amytornis modestus.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:Thick-billed Grasswren - profile (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2005y) [Internet].
NSW:Thick-billed Grasswren- Threatened Species Information (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS), 2010) [Information Sheet].
NSW:Review of the Threatened Species Conservation Act Schedules 2007-2009 (NSW Scientific Committee (NSW SC), 2009b) [State Species Management Plan].
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Thick-billed Grasswren (north-western subspecies) Amytornis modestus indulkana (Pavey, C. & S. Ward, 2012b) [Information Sheet].
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory - Thick-billed Grasswren (eastern subspecies) Amytornis modestus modestus (Ward, S., 2012) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Critically Endangered (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list) as Amytornis textilis modestus
Scientific name Amytornis modestus [84121]
Family Maluridae:Passeriformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (North, 1902)
Infraspecies author  
Reference Black, A.B., Joseph, L., Pedler, L.P. & Carpenter, G.A. 2010. A taxonomic framework for interpreting evolution within the Amytornis textilis-modestus complex of grasswrens. The Emu 110: 358-363
Other names Amytornis textilis modestus [59460]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Northern Territory: Listed as Endangered under the name Amytornis modestus indulkanna and Extinct under the name Amytornis modestus modestus under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1976.

South Australia: Listed as Endangered under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Thick-billed Grasswrens are thickset, dull brown grasswrens with dark stout bills. The underparts are pale grey-buff, with fine streaking from the chin to the breast, and on the back. Female Grasswrens have chestnut flanks (Pizzey & Knight 1999).

The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren is usually seen in pairs or small groups, but sometimes occurs singly (Blakers et al. 1984).

In South Australia, the eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren is widespread from the Lake Frome basin, west to the eastern Lake Torrens basin, northwest to near Leigh Creek and Marree, and along the southern and western fringes of the Lake Eyre Basin (including the Davenport Ranges and near William Creek), and West to the Coober Pedy region (Badman 1979; Brandle 1998; Gee et al. 1996; Higgins et al. 2001). It has also been recently recorded at two sites northwest of Lake Eyre (Brandle 1998).

The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren has contracted from much of the eastern part of its range. It is now probably extinct in NSW (Higgins et al. 2001). There are confirmed historical records from the following locations in western NSW: (1) two collected on Pimpara Lake Station, near Milparinka, in the Upper Western Region, October 1912; (2) one collected at Yandembah, around 40 km east-southeast of Mossgiel, in the Lower Western Region, possibly collected in November 1886; and (3) a specimen collected from the lower Namoi River valley, inland northern NSW, in December 1839 or January 1840, but the precise locality is not known (Higgins et al. 2001; McAllen 1987; Parker 1972). The last confirmed records from NSW were of the specimens collected on Pimpara Lake Station in October 1912.

In South Australia, the Thick-billed Grasswren is thought to no longer occur at Mungeranie on the Birdsville Track, in northeastern South Australia (Garnett & Crowley 2000), and it was not recorded from the southern Lake Frome Basin in surveys conducted between 1995 and 1997 (Playfair & Robinson 1997).

There was an unconfirmed record of the eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren in 1994 at Finke River, in the southern Northern Territory (Brandle 1998).

Eleven Thick-billed Grasswrens (eastern) were observed at five sites during a fauna survey on the Mount Eba and Millers Creek Stations, South Australia. The survey was conducted along the proposed route of a 37.2 km operations wellfield infrastructure corridor running from the Prominent Hill Mine Lease Area to a wellfield area located to the southeast (Moseby 2007). The final fauna survey report indicates only one sighting of a Thick-billed Grasswren along a transect running almost due east of a proposed well site (EBS 2007).

In the Northern Territory, the Thick-billed Grasswren was formerly recorded in the Finke River Drainage Basin, from Mereenie Bluff and the upper reaches of Hugh River, south to the lower reaches of the Finke River, and at Laurie's Creek and McMinn's Creek, but there have been no confirmed records in these regions since 1936 (Higgins et al. 2001; Parker 1972; Storr 1977).

The population size of the eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren is estimated to be 20 000 breeding birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000), but the reliability or method for this estimate is not known.

The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren occurs in chenopod shrublands (which occur in the arid and semi-arid zones), especially shrublands dominated by saltbush Atriplex spp. and bluebush Maireana spp., sometimes with widely scattered trees (Higgins et al. 2001).

At a site west of Oodnadatta, South Australia, in September 1996, the Thick-billed Grasswren was recorded on a clay peneplain with a sparse to open cover of saltbush Atriplex spp., bindieyes Sclerolaena spp., Roly-poly Salsola kali, glasswort Halosarcia sp. and various daisies including Rhodanthe spp., Calotis hispidula and Craspedia spp. (Matthew pers. comm. 2002). Similarly, during a survey of the Mount Eba and Millers Creek Stations, South Australia, the subspecies was recorded in chenopod shrubland with gilgais supporting large chenopods such as Oodnadatta Saltbush Atriplex nummularia omissa, Blackbush Maireana pyramidata, and Spiny Saltbush Rhagodia spinescens.

The Thick-billed Grasswren (eastern) probably favours areas on drainage lines where saltbush and bluebush shrubs are taller and thicker (Chapman 1996; Matthew pers. comm. 2002). There are historical records of the eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren in Sandhill Canegrass Zygochloa paradoxa on sand dunes (Higgins et al. 2001). They possibly also occurred on the plains of the Lower Namoi River in Nitre Bush Nitraria shrubland (Parker 1972), although this historical record could also have been from areas of Grey Saltbush Atriplex cinerea or Roly-poly Salsola kali (McAllen 1987).

The nest of the Thick-billed Grasswren is usually placed within 1 m of the ground, in the centre of a low shrub such as saltbush Atriplex spp., bluebush Maireana spp. or canegrass Zygochloa spp., including Sandhill Canegrass Z. paradoxa growing on sand dunes (Higgins et al. 2001; Parker 1972; Rowley & Russell 1997; Schodde 1982; Whitlock 1924). It is also reported to nest in flood debris (Whitlock 1924).

Active nests of the eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren have been recorded from late June to September (Higgins et al. 2001; Rowley & Russell 1997; Schodde 1982; Whitlock 1924). Breeding is also said to occur between January and April in response to sufficient rainfall (Rowley & Russell 1997; Schodde 1982), and it is suggested that this may allow pairs to raise a second brood in the one year (Schodde 1982).

The clutch size of the Thick-billed Grasswren is usually two eggs, less often one or three (Higgins et al. 2001; Rowley & Russell 1997; Schodde 1982). The eggs are laid in a fairly solid, partly domed or fully domed nest, with thick walls of dry grass, twigs of saltbush, and narrow strips of bark, and usually lined with fine grass, stems and downy plant material, but occasionally also fur and parrot feathers (Higgins et al. 2001).

The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren is omnivorous. It eats seeds, fruits, insects and other invertebrates (Higgins et al. 2001; Rowley & Russell 1997; Whitlock 1924). The diet of Thick-billed Grasswrens in general includes seeds of grasses and other plants such as Acacia spp., species of Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Geraniaceae and Malvaceae. They also eat Chilopods (centipedes) and insects including Coleoptera (beetles), Hemiptera (bugs), Hymenoptera (ants and wasps), Isoptera (termites) and Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) (Higgins et al. 2001).

The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren forages mainly on the ground, under and around the bases of shrubs, and sometimes in open areas (Rowley & Russell 1997; Schodde 1982).

The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren is probably sedentary (Schodde 1982). Observations of the population in the Devonport Ranges, South Australia, between 1989 and 1994, indicated they were resident there (Gee et al. 1996).

The Thick-billed Grasswren is probably territorial throughout the year (Higgins et al. 2001). Pairs apparently remain in an area of four to five ha, and do not congregate into locally nomadic parties after breeding (Schodde 1982).

Detectability
The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren is usually furtive and difficult to observe, but it sometimes climbs briefly to a vantage point before disappearing into cover. Its call is soft, and so high pitched that it can be difficult to hear, especially in windy conditions. The eastern subspecies of the Thick-billed Grasswren would probably respond to broadcast (playback) of its territorial call (Higgins et al. 2001).

The Thick-billed Grasswren (eastern) is adversely affected by damage to soil and loss of understorey vegetation caused by grazing by domestic stock (sheep and possibly cattle) and feral animals such as rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and goats Capra hircus. The Thick-billed Grasswren is also thought to be especially vulnerable to damage to its habitat during droughts (Blakers et al. 1984; Higgins et al. 2001; McAllen 1987; Schodde 1982). The decline and eventual extinction of the Thick-billed Grasswren (eastern) in NSW is thought to have been caused by heavy grazing of the sub-species' shrubland habitat by domestic stock in the 1880s, and the subsequent devastating droughts in the 1890s (McAllen 1987).

However, in South Australia the sub-species continues to occur in areas degraded by sheep and rabbits (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The Thick-billed Grasswren (eastern subspecies) Amytornis textilis modestus (North, 1902) Recovery Plan (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service 2002o), and the Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000) both provide guides to threat abatement and management strategies for the Thick-billed Grasswren (eastern).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Early records of the Thick-billed Grasswren Amytornis textilis and Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus. Australian Birds. 21:33--43. (McAllen, I.A.W., 1987) [Journal].
Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002 (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2002o) [Recovery Plan].
The Fairy-Wrens. A Monograph of the Maluridae (Schodde, R., 1982) [Book].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Droughts:Drought Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002 (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2002o) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) Early records of the Thick-billed Grasswren Amytornis textilis and Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus. Australian Birds. 21:33--43. (McAllen, I.A.W., 1987) [Journal].
Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002 (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2002o) [Recovery Plan].
The Fairy-Wrens. A Monograph of the Maluridae (Schodde, R., 1982) [Book].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Capra hircus (Goat) Early records of the Thick-billed Grasswren Amytornis textilis and Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus. Australian Birds. 21:33--43. (McAllen, I.A.W., 1987) [Journal].
Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002 (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2002o) [Recovery Plan].
The Fairy-Wrens. A Monograph of the Maluridae (Schodde, R., 1982) [Book].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002 (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2002o) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002 (NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, 2002o) [Recovery Plan].

Badman, F.J. (1979). Birds of the southern and western Lake Eyre drainage. South Australian Ornithologist. 28:29-81.

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Brandle, R. (Ed.) (1998). A Biological Survey of the Stony Deserts, South Australia 1994-1997. Adelaide, South Australia: Department for Environment, Heritage & Aboriginal Affairs and National Parks Foundation of South Australia.

Chapman, G.S. (1996). The grasswrens: A brief pictorial. Wingspan. 6:20-27.

Environmental and Biodiversity Services (EBS) (2007). Prominent Hill Operations Wellfield Fauna Survey (Final Version 3), July 2007. Report prepared for Enesar Consulting Pty Ltd on behalf of Oxiana Limited.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Gee, P., I. Gee & J. Read (1996). An annotated bird list from the Davenport Range, South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist. 32:76--81.

Higgins, P.J., J.M. Peter & W.K. Steele (Eds) (2001). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Five - Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Matthew, J.S. (2002). Personal communication.

McAllen, I.A.W. (1987). Early records of the Thick-billed Grasswren Amytornis textilis and Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus. Australian Birds. 21:33--43.

Moseby, K. (2007). Operations Wellfield Infrastructure Corridor: Fauna Survey and Impact Assessment. Prominent Hill Project May 2007. Report prepared by Ecological Horizons Pty Ltd for Oxiana Pty Ltd.

NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (2002o). Thick-billed Grasswren (Eastern Subspecies) (Amytornis textilis modestus) (North, 1902) Recovery Plan - July 2002. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/grass-wren-eastern/index.html.

Parker, S.A. (1972). Remarks on the distribution and taxonomy of the grass wrens Amytornis textilis, modestus and purnelli. Emu. 72:157-166.

Pizzey, G. & F. Knight (1999). The Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Pymble, Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Playfair, R.M. & A.C. Robinson (1997). A Biological Survey of the North Olary Plain, 1995-1997. SA Dept Environment & Natural Resources, Adelaide.

Rowley, I. & E. Russell (1997). Fairy-Wrens and Grasswrens. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Schodde, R. (1982). The Fairy-Wrens. A Monograph of the Maluridae. Lansdowne Editions, Melbourne.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO.

Storr, G.M. (1977). Birds of the Northern Territory. Special Publications of the Western Australian Museum. 7:1-130.

Whitlock, F.L. (1924). Journey to central Australia in search of the Night Parrot. Emu. 23:248--281.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Amytornis modestus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 19 Sep 2014 09:02:34 +1000.