The recent discussion of Atherton Scrubwren on this listserv has peaked my
curiousity. As a periodical visitor to Australia, I have scratched my head
more then a few times wondering just where to find Atherton Scrubwrens. I
must admit to sharing a bit of Alan McBride's skepticism over their status.
While I do not doubt their existence, I wish I knew more about their
habits, voice, and natural history, and wonder why I've been so skilled at
I have visited the Atherton Tableland on four occasions specifically
looking for "tableland endemics", yet I only feel as though I have
encountered true Atherton Scrubwrens once (a pair at the entrance to the
Golden Bowerbird track at Longlands Gap SP) despite a lot of searching.
Granted, I have birded primarily in the traditional "visiting birder"
spots, Lakes Barrine and Eacham, Mt. Hypipamee, Longlands Gap, etc, but
Atherton Scrubwrens are mentioned as occurring at each of these localities.
Large-billed Scrubwrens seem to be abundant and conspicuous throughout the
tablelands. Are there better spots for Atherton Scrubwrens? Are they
uniformly distributed on the tablelands, or are there just patchy
With regards to identification, published photos of Atherton and
Large-billed scrubwrens convince me that they should be identifiable
provided good views are obtained. But the level of detail regarding
behavior and voice found in the field guides falls short. For example,
with regard to behavior, much is made of foraging height as a method of
differentiating between these two species yet I have observed Large-billed
Scrubwrens foraging just centimeters off the ground, seemingly negating the
importance of Atherton Scrubwren's lower foraging habits (though I have not
seen Large-billeds hopping about on the ground in a truly terrestrial
With respect to vocalizations, it would be helpful to read a constructively
written account of vocal differences between the two species, with
attention to tone, pitch, cadence, and amplitude. The only recording of
Atherton Scrubwren with which I'm familiar is the RAOU Tape #9 of
Australian Birds, which is at least superficially similar to a song of
Large-billed Scrubwren. So often it is just a matter of knowing what to
listen for, and in this case, I'm just not clear on what I should be
focusing in on. If Atherton Scrubwrens are as shy as they appear to be,
then knowing more precisely what to listen for would be a great help in
There surely must be some differences in prey selection, foraging
techniques, and/or microhabitat differences that allow these two species to
coexist on the tableland. Are there any recommended references that shed
light on the differences between these two species? It would make a great
ID topic for WINGSPAN, if it hasn't already been covered.
Thanks for any guidance you can provide!
(32 13' 30"N,110 54' 02"W) "The mind is like a parachute,
Tucson, Arizona it only works if it's open".
--- Charlie Chan