STORY OF THE OPALTON GRASSWREN
Contact Call | Volume 9 Number 4 | December 2020
Back in 1970, Mr J.D. Macdonald, President of the Queensland Ornithological Society, and his wife were travelling around western Queensland and were curious about a report of a grasswren sighted near Opalton. They were in Longreach and decided to head due west, but by the time they reached Vergemont Station they got bushed on the many tracks and did a circuit of 30 miles ending up where they had been the previous day. However, they did find grasswrens in the porcupine grass as spinifex was known in those days.
A grasswren was collected and given to the Queensland Museum and subsequently identified as a Striated Grasswren which was found in many places in Australia, but this was the first record for Queensland. Mr. Macdonald noted that “Grasswrens do not present themselves for easy identification; they are accomplished in the art of keeping out of sight, usually under the other side of a clump of porcupine grass, especially if they have found out that you want to see them”. Nothing has changed – they are just as hard to see today!
Since that time, it has been determined that there are enough differences to make it a sub-species of the Striated Grasswren, the Rusty Grasswren, Amytornis striatus rowleyi. In July 2020, the I.O.C. officially made it a full species, Amytornis rowleyi – the Opalton Grasswren.
Opalton Grasswren is only found in a very small area in the Forsythe Range around Opalton and Lark Quarry, south of Winton. They tend to favour flat sandy areas with lateritic gravel and spinifex often close to creek beds with Normanton Box, and forage for seeds and insects as they scurry around.
Opalton has long been a birdwatcher’s destination, but now it will be an even more desirable location and, hopefully, the local residents will be proud of ‘their’ bird.
Macdonald, J.D. (1970) Striated Grasswren in Queensland. Sunbird 1, 92–96.
Wood, K.A. (2014) Habitats of the Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus rowleyi at Opalton, central western Queensland. Australian Field Ornithology 31, 1–16.
Wood, K.A. (2014) Observations of the Striated Grasswren at Opalton, central western Queensland. Australian Field Ornithology 31, 17–23.
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