This is a guest post from Peter Cooke that was originally posted at his wonderful Tumblr page, “Life is a Carnivore“
You won’t find Yilingkirrkkirr anywhere other than in the rugged sandstone massif of Kakadu and Western Arnhem Land.
Yilingkirrkirr is the name for this handsome and elusive bird in the languages of Kundedjnjenghmi and Gundjeihmi. The scientific name is Amytornis woodwardi and the common name is the White Throated Grasswren.
Yiilingkirrkkirr is listed as a vulnerable species by the Northern Territory Government.
It’s not travelling as well as its close relative the Black Grasswren from Western Australia but much better than the Carpentarian Grasswren, to the south-east.
The Carpentarian Grasswren is listed as endangered with less than 2000 breeding pairs.
The fall of Yilingkirrkkirr to vulnerable status is believed to be associated with a decline in Aboriginal customary fire management practices brought on as Aboriginal people were drawn off their rugged homelands from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century.
Since about 1970 Aboriginal people have been returning to re-establish themselves on the remote Arnhem Land Plateau. They began re-instituting customary burning patterns from the late 1990s and have been very successful in reducing the huge late dry season wildfires that impacted so badly on Yilingkirrkkirr.
The Aboriginal rangers of Warddeken Land Management are delivering the recommendations for conservation of Yilingkirrkkirr: implementing a fire management program that maintains or enhances habitat quality across the range of this species and establishing a monitoring program for at least representative populations.
The return to customary indigenous fire management means longer intervals between fires in critical habitat and smaller, patchier fires which provide habitat with variations from recently burned to long unburned.
Yilingkirrkkirr seems to be surviving the effects of predation by feral cats on the plateau.
Feral cats are believed to be a major cause of a catastrophic decline in the population of small native mammals across North Australia.
Yilingkirrkkirr nests in the midst of thick and spiky spinifex tussocks and cats probably find it easier to hunt small native mice, lizards and insects.