Stipiturus mallee 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Maluridae

Scientific Name: Stipiturus mallee Campbell, 1908
Common Name(s):
English Mallee Emu-wren, Mallee Emuwren
Taxonomic Source(s): Christidis, L. and Boles, W.E. 2008. Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Identification information: 13-14.5 cm. Tiny-bodied, streaked wren with brown, filamentous tail of 8-9.5 cm. Grey-brown upperparts, coarsely streaked darker. Rufous cap. Orange-buff below in both sexes. Male has sky-blue face and bib. Female whitish around eye, rufous only on forehead. Juvenile plainer. Similar spp. Confusion unlikely. Southern Emu-wren S. malachurus has longer tail and is darker with more extensive streaking on crown. Fairy-wrens Malurus spp. are larger, unstreaked, with non-filamentous tails. Voice Trills and twitters like Malurus spp., but higher-pitched. Hints Secretive. Often cocks tail. Look and listen for on calm days in dense spinifex Triodia.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2abc ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Brown, S., Dutson, G., Ford, H., Garnett, S., Menkhorst, P., Mustoe, S., Paton, D. & Saunders, D.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Allinson, T, Benstead, P., Butchart, S., Dutson, G., Garnett, S., Mahood, S., McClellan, R., North, A., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
This species has a small and severely fragmented range within which habitat is likely to continue to decline owing to fire. It has undergone a very rapid population reduction and is therefore classified as Endangered. It requires immediate sensitive habitat management to prevent further declines.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Stipiturus mallee has a severely fragmented distribution in the Victorian and South Australian mallee regions, Australia, south and east of the Murray River. It is currently found in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, patchily distributed across the Murray-Sunset reserve complex and extremely rare in a small area in the eastern part of Wyperfeld National Park (Clarke and Brown 2007). Major fires in both Ngarkat and Billiatt Conservation Reserves in South Australia in January 2014 may have wiped out the subpopulations previously found in these reserves (H. Ford in litt. 2016, D. Paton in litt. 2016). Birds are unlikely to disperse more than 5 km, meaning that this species's subpopulations are effectively isolated (D. Paton in litt. 2006). It was last recorded in Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve in 1997 and is considered extinct from Annuello and Wathe Fauna and Flora Reserves (Clarke and Brown 2007, Watson 2011). The population has been estimated at 15,307 (7,672–35,584) mature individuals (taking into account a male-skewed sex ratio), 14,300 of which are in the Murray-Sunset region with 500 in Hattah Kulkyne, and <50 in Wyperfeld (Brown et al. 2009), with the last site unlikely to be viable. Patterns of decline have been reported in Victoria (D. Paton per Mustoe 2006), of 868 playback survey sites covering the Murray Mallee Reserve System the species was only recorded at 15 sites in the Murray-Sunset National Park and one in the Big Desert (Clarke 2006). 

Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:800Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:31300
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:It appears to have declined heavily in recent years; wildfires have wiped out remnant subpopulations. The population has been estimated at c.15,307 (7,672–35,584) mature individuals (taking into account a male-skewed sex ratio), 14,300 of which are in the Murray-Sunset region (perhaps the last viable subpopulation) (Brown et al. 2009).

Trend Justification:  This species has declined very rapidly from extensive fires. It is suspected that this risk will continue (Garnett et al. 2011).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:7500-35500Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Yes
No. of subpopulations:7Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:90-94

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It occupies habitats containing hummock grassland Triodia, usually within low woodland dominated by mallee eucalypts Eucalyptus and cypress pine Callitris. It also occurs in heath containing banksias Banksia or casuarinas Allocasuarina. In Ngarkat, dispersed at least 6 km into vegetation recovering from fire, 3-4 years after it has been burnt. Highest densities occur 8-10 years after fire, although it persists in vegetation 50 years old. Much apparently suitable habitat is unoccupied. Throughout its range it appears to be confined to relatively small discontinuous fragments of habitat (Mustoe 2006). Anecdotal evidence suggests that habitat suitability may be influenced by rainfall through its affect on the health of Triodia, and in turn on the abundance of insect prey. Annual rainfall increases as a gradient heading east, and may explain why eastern areas of its range seem to be a stronghold (Mustoe 2006). Occasional increases in adult mortality may be offset by a meta-population structure which is bolstered by cooperative breeding (S. Mustoe in litt. 2006).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):9.7
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Past clearance for agriculture and livestock grazing has fragmented habitat, and the greatest current threat is large-scale wildfires within remnants, such as occurred in both Ngarkat and Billiatt Conservation Park. Recent declines in South Australia coincided with droughts and a sequence of extensive fires (D. Paton in litt. 2006). This population may not be able to persist or reclaim its former distribution because it is surrounded by large areas of recently burnt heath (D. Paton in litt. 2006). Following fires, mallee-heath requires 5-10 years of regeneration before it is suitable for the species (D. Paton per Mustoe 2006, D. Paton in litt. 2006). Relatively small changes in habitat quality could cause sudden local declines, and the loss of, or changes to peripheral habitat may affect core habitat (S. Mustoe in litt. 2006). Mallee-heath is used in the east of the species's range, and may mean that the strongholds of the species are at most risk from loss to single fire events (Mustoe 2006). The species's habitat is now so fragmented that any single fire event could be catastrophic (Mustoe 2006). Major fires in both Ngarkat and Billiatt Conservation Reserves in South Australia in January 2014 has resulted in no known surveys detecting the species in these reserves since (H. Ford in litt. 2016, D. Paton in litt. 2016). The use of strategic fire-breaks has been unsuccessful in protecting subpopulations of this species (D. Paton in litt. 2006). Planned burning aimed at reducing the risk of fire could provide an additional threat if land that has been unburnt for over 20 years (vital habitat for this species) is burnt to meet targets (Lau 2012). Drought also puts pressure on the species (D. Paton in litt. 2016), especially in the west of its range, where populations may be thinly distributed as a result (Mustoe 2006), and a long term drought could result in a crash in local populations (S. Mustoe in litt. 2006). Habitat fragmentation has taken place within the area of Hattah-Kulkyne National Park and adjacent Crown Land; the area is bisected by the Calder Highway and a railway line, and a swathe of habitat has been removed beneath power lines. Other developments threatening further fragmentation include plans submitted for an industrial toxic waste facility at Nowingi in an area of densely occupied habitat (D. Paton in litt. 2006), in a location which is key to the species's long-term survival (S. Mustoe in litt. 2006), and the Mildura fire plan has proposed to burn a 250 m wide strip down the west side of the Calder Highway. If suitable habitat does not become available to replace current habitat that deteriorates through old age, as compounded by drought and fires, then numbers of this species have the potential to decline sharply within decades (S. Brown in litt. 2006). Locust spraying resulting in the reduction of invertebrates is also considered a medium level threat (Boulton and Lau 2015).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
An extensive reserve system incorporates most of its remaining range, including Hattah-Kulkyne and Wyperfeld National Parks, Murray-Sunset National Park, the Big Desert Wilderness in Victoria and Ngarkat Conservation Park in South Australia. The Mallee Emu-wren Fire Ecology Project is researching population numbers and responses to fire in Wyperfield, Big Desert, Murray-Sunset and Hattah-Kulkyne national parks, with final results expected in 2018 (Anon 2016). The disastrous fires of 2014 brought together individuals from across the State and Commonwealth governments, universities, zoos and natural resource management agencies to develop a Conservation Action Plan for the species. A feasibility study was also conducted for translocating individuals (Brown 2014) and establishing a captive bred insurance population (Olds LGM 2014)

Conservation Actions Proposed
Determine the current range. Establish monitoring of known populations. Establish a fire management programme that will ensure the conservation of the species within its existing range. Re-establish the species in areas from which it has been eliminated by fire. Plans to translocate individuals back to Ngarkat have been proposed (D. Paton in litt. 2016).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Stipiturus mallee. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22703776A93936298. . Downloaded on 24 June 2018.
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