Endemic to Australia, the Dusky Grasswren (Amytornis purnelli) is found only in the rocky range regions of Central Australia, being limited to the inland areas of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.

Dusky Grasswren (Amytornis purnelli)
Dusky Grasswren (Amytornis purnelli)

A striking small bird, with upper rusty brown in colour, finely streaked plumage and a long tail, often held cocked. The underparts are a slightly paler brown to grey and they have fine white streaks on the head, upper back and chest. The adult female can be distinguished from the male by a small rusty brown flank patch.

Dusky Grasswren (Amytornis purnelli)
Dusky Grasswren (Amytornis purnelli)

Sometimes known as Rock Wrens, the Dusky Grasswren inhabit spinifex and rocky areas, usually near open woodland areas. They have been sighted in gorges such as Simpsons Gap, Serpentine Gorge (in the MacDonnell Ranges) and Kings Canyon region (Watarrka National Park).

Alice Springs is a popular destination for bird watchers, especially those hoping to catch a glimpse of the Dusky Grasswren, with easy access to the many rocky areas and gorges along the MacDonnell Ranges. They can also be seen at the Alice Springs Desert Park, where there are even free-roaming tagged birds that have been sighted in the park.

The Dusky Grasswren can be seen hopping along the ground, amidst the spinifex, feeding on small seeds, small desert fruits, small arthropods and other invertebrates.

Images © Dorothy L


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Maluridae
  • Genus: Amytornis
  • Species: A. purnelli
  • Binomial name: Amytornis purnelli

Footnote & References

  1. The bird that pretends to be a mouse by Caddie Brain, 22 Sep 2011, ABC Rural, https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2011-09-23/the-bird-that-pretends-to-be-a-mouse/6178958
  2. Grasswrens, Bush Heritage Australia, https://www.bushheritage.org.au/species/grass-wrens