Nature conservation

Threatened species

Grey Grasswren - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Amytornis barbatus barbatus
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Endangered
Gazetted date: 25 Jun 2004
Profile last updated: 01 Nov 2022


The Grey Grasswren is a very distinctive, pale grey-cinnamon coloured grasswren with a striking black and white pattern on the head. The species is 18-20cm in size with both sexes and juveniles similar colours but slightly paler in females and young. The black lines through the eye and around the white face give the impression of a facial mask.


Confined to areas dominated by Lignum (Muehlenbeckia florulenta) along tributaries of the Diamantina River and Coopers Creek in the Lake Eyre drainage basin, and along the lower Bulloo River. In NSW the Grey Grasswren is recorded from Caryapundy Swamp above the Bulloo Overflow (Bulloorine).

Habitat and ecology

  • Shelters, roosts, nests and feeds almost entirely within dense, tall Lignum, with associated Sandhill Canegrass (Zygochloa paradoxa) and sedges in swamps, overflow channels and flood pans. Old Man Saltbush communities close to Lignum are also heavily utilised at times. The grasswren may be forced into stands of Canegrass or Oldman Saltbush growing on surrounding sand dunes when the areas of Lignum become flooded.
  • Although thought to be largely sedentary, and in territorial pairs when breeding, groups of between 15 and 40 individuals forage together outside the breeding season; other movements may occur, associated with floods and droughts.
  • Builds loose and bulky grass nest in Lignum or Canegrass, between 30 and 75 cm above the ground.
  • Insect larvae comprise the bulk of its diet, but mature insects and at times water snails are also eaten.
  • Preliminary radio-tracking surveys indicate grasswrens utilise foraging territories of 10-100 ha with a mean of 57ha.
  • Not dependent on surface water and can persist in dense lignum habitat even if dry for several years.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Channel CountryBulloo Known The Bullorine
Channel CountryCore Ranges Predicted None
Channel CountrySturt Stony Desert Known The Bullorine
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None