The Southern Emu-wren (Stipiturus malachurus) is a small buff-brown bird and named for the six wispy, emu-like tail feathers (approximately 10 cm long), usually held upright.

A shy species, the male birds are grey-brown streaked black above, warm tawny brown below, with a distinctive blue chin and throat and some blue around the eyes. The females are similar but lack the blue colouration. They spend most of the time low in dense cover.

Southern Emu-wren © Dorothy L
Female Southern Emu-wren, Bool Lagoons, South Australia © Dorothy L

The Southern Emu-wren is one of three species of the genus Stipiturus. There are eight currently recognised subspecies, with a handful more being described.

Not be confused with the Southern Emu-wren is the rare Mallee Emu-wren, which is similar but is lighter tawny brown below and lacks the streaked head. The Mallee Emu-wren have the blue that extends more up around the eyes and face.

Distribution and Habitat
The Southern Emu-wren is found from the south-eastern Queensland down along the east coast and west to south-eastern coast of South Australia and Tasmania. It has also been seen along the coast of Western Australia from Israelite Bay and up to Shark Bay.

It can be found in low and dense scrublands, coastal heathlands, tea-tree vegetation and sandhill vegetation.

The Southern Emu-wren eats insects and spiders foraged from the shrub and surrounding vegetation canopy.

Southern Emu-wren © Dorothy L
Southern Emu-wren, Bool Lagoons, South Australia © Dorothy L

Made from and lined with grasses, the female emu-wren builds a oval-shaped dome nest with a round entrance at the side, placed near the ground in a grass tussock or dense shrubbery. The male defends a small territory with regular bursts of song. Whilst the female incubates the eggs, both parents feed the young.

  • Scientific classification
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Maluridae
  • Genus: Stipiturus
  • Species: S. malachurus
  • Binomial name: Stipiturus malachurus