Updating knowledge on the threatened Southern Emu-wren

Eyre Peninsula (EP) Southern Emu-wren (Stipiturus malachurus parimeda) 

                                                                                                                                       All Photos: © Ashwin Rudder 


 The Eyre Peninsula (EP) Southern Emu-wren (Stipiturus malachurus parimeda) is one of eight subspecies of the Southern Emu-wren and is known from only a handful of isolated locations on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

This shy little bird weighs only about as much as a pencil (7g) and is currently threatened with extinction, primarily due to loss and fragmentation of its habitat and inappropriate fire regimes. The EP subspecies was uplisted from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ nationally in July 2023 based on surveys conducted some 15 years ago, so there was an urgent and critical need for reliable data regarding its current distribution.

With funding from the Wettenhall Environment Trust, in August 2023, the NCSSA undertook a survey focusing on revisiting key sites that these tiny, timid birds had been previously found on the Eyre Peninsula.

The project aimed to update our knowledge and guide future conservation efforts, as well as to educate community members about this amazing bird, activating them to support its recovery.  

EP Southern Emu-wren Distribution Assessment Report 2023

Results from the survey show that the endangered Southern Emu-wren on the Eyre Peninsula has likely vanished from one of the places it previously occurred and has suffered a reduction in range of some 20% since the last comprehensive survey.

A key output from the project is a revised distribution map for the Emu-wren. A community workshop was held in Port Lincoln in November 2023 to share the survey results and to engage the community in the plight of the EP Southern Emu-wren. 

Pleasingly, one population of Emu-wrens survived a burn at one occupied site and birds were even found for the first time in a nearby patch of habitat.

But the apparent disappearance of these birds from another previously known site, coupled with a review of the bird’s current range – known as “area of occupancy” – shows ongoing decline. Emu-wrens are also still absent from places burnt in the 2005 Wangary fire, demonstrating the long-lasting impact of bushfire on these birds.

Our report confirms what government scientists said about this bird when it’s level of protection was increased under our national laws last year – all remaining Southern Emu-wren habitat is critical and must be preserved. That’s an absolute miminum

NCSSA President, Associate Professor Patrick O'Connor


The NCS acknowledges that funding provided by the Wettenhall Environment Trust made the 2023 survey of the Eyre Peninsula Southern Emu-wren possible. Further, the NCS is grateful for the many stakeholders and interested parties who contributed to this project