Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Sandhill Grasswren
Amytornis striatus oweni
(Viewing 3 of 3 photos)

Recent research has resulted in the naming of three "new"species of grasswren, all once regarded as forms of the widespread species Amytornis striatus, the Striated Grasswren. The form which inhabits the sandy deserts of Central Australia has been named the Sandhill Grasswren, Amytornis oweni, but on rather flimsy evidence so this has not been accepted by some authorities and it may simply remain as a not so distinctive subspecies..

Because these birds occur mainly in regions difficult of access (Aboriginal Reserves and remote station country) few people have ever seen them, or are even likely to. One of the best known places is at the sunset viewing area near Uluru, but not many people who look there actually succeed - too many tourists and you aren't allowed off the track, not an ideal spot. At least if you go there in the morning, nobody is there!

The majority of recent records are centred around the far SW corner of the NT and nearby SA and WA. Access to this area is probably best achieved by travelling what is generally known as the "Great Central Road" and requires a Transit Permit from the Central Land Council. At the western end of this traverse, Wanjarri Nature Reserve, S of Wiluna is a known locality. Another well-known locality is at approx. 20 km west of Sandstone, W.A.

All this will only be of interest to the most determined of twitchers keen to add another species to their list. The difference in appearance between Sandhill Grasswrens and their close relative, the Striated Grasswren is largely academic and certainly barely discernible. They are slightly smaller, more rufous and have whiter bellies than their southern counterparts, reaching their extreme in birds from the Tanami Desert west of Tennant Creek. These paler northern birds were once considered distinct enough to be named a subspecies of the original Striated Grasswren, Amytornis striatus rufus.

Up until now, I haven't seen this grasswren either, so there's no picture of the bird. (yet!) I hope to visit Central Australia soon, so watch this space!

Photo: 888210

888210 ... Hummock Grassland - Spinifex in Gibson Desert.

Photo: 888211

888211 ... Spinifex grassland near Uluru (Ayers Rock) a known locality.

Photo: 888212

888212 ... Sandhill Grasswrens occur within this area mainly in parallel sand-dune country amongst dense spinifex

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