Bird 118 – Mallee Emu-wren

After looking at the Emu, it’s now time to look at their closest relative, the Mallee Emu-wren (Stipiturus mallee)

Unlike their colossal cousin the Emu-wren is a tiny wee little thing. They’re rather similar looking to the Fairy Wrens you’ll be familiar with, except for that special tail of theirs.

And this is where they get their name from, as the six or so filamentous feathers that make up its tail are reminiscent of Emu feathers.

Now, the Mallee Emu-wren is one of Australia’s rarest birds. As their name suggests, they like to hang out on top of Emus. But if there are no Emus around, they also get about in the Mallee. They can be found in two main areas, one in western Victoria and one in eastern South Australia. That is, they used to have two main areas. After the 2014 bushfires in South Australia they were wiped out leaving only a couple of pockets of population in Victoria.

Image result for mallee emu wren

But conservationists got stuck in and started a massive captive breeding program. They used the closely related Rufus-crowned Emu-wren as a surrogate parent for the chicks, and starting in 2018 they were able to introduce the Mallee Emu-wren back into South Australia. Finally a win!

These birds a bit picky though. They don’t like fire, but at the same time they do best in habitat which has burnt between 16 and 30 years ago. So they need intermittent fire…?Damn it guys. 

As the land burns more frequently, and as back burning becomes more essential, it will put increasing pressure on these little fuss-pots.  

We will keep our fingers crossed that conservationists can find a way to hit the right balance and keep these pint-sized beauties around. 

01/03/2020

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