Rare wren proves to be a little fire fighter after surviving blaze

Bird species on brink of extinction
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ABC North and West

By Khama Reid

Updated

December 02, 2017 14:28:11

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One of the Short-tailed grasswrens spotted in the Gawler Ranges during the survey. (Supplied: Deb Hopton)
It’s pretty rare that you actually see the bird, you more often than not just hear them.”She said trained bird surveyers listened out for the bird, which also responded to a recording of its call.”If we were to play the bird sound from the app, then that would also assist us to get a bird to respond to us if they were present.”Ms Lynch also said it was not quite known why the bird only lived in small areas, but said they need a certain height and density of spinifex to nest in.”They’re quite specialised in their habitat requirements, and coupled with threats like fires and predators that’s meant their survival has been quite threatened,” she said.She also said a fox baiting program that started in the early 1990s had helped keep the rare bird alive in the ranges. A survey of a remote, rocky habitat full of spinifex grass in South Australia has found a rare bird still lives in the area, despite fears it could have been wiped out in a fire six years ago.The short-tailed grasswren is only found in South Australia, with the Gawler Ranges subspecies classed as endangered, and Flinders Ranges subspecies considered vulnerable.Catherine Lynch, Community Ecologist with Natural Resources SA Arid Lands, said the Gawler Ranges was last surveyed in 2006 but a fire had swept through since in 2011. (Supplied: DEWNR)
A cryptic birdMs Lynch said the surveys needed to be done over the spring breeding season, as the bird was difficult to find.”It’s a notoriously cryptic bird. Photo:
Staff and volunteers measure the height of the spinifex grasses in the Gawler Ranges where the short-tailed grasswren nests. “We determined that there was that need there to better understand the status of the species in the Gawler Ranges and investigate how they were faring after that fire.”That was one of the drivers for carrying out the survey this year.”The survey showed the population had remained stable and, although the birds weren’t found at some of their previously known habitats, they had resettled elsewhere. Fifty-seven sites were surveyed with grasswrens recorded at 20.Ms Lynch said it was difficult to determine if the population had varied, but it was a relief to confirm they were still in the area.”There was certainly a lot of concern from leading ornithologists in South Australia about the state of short-tailed grasswrens both in the Flinders Ranges and the Gawler Ranges,” she said.