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Territory quality, survival and reproductive success in southern emu-wrens Stipiturus malachurus


  • Grainne S. Maguire

G. S. Maguire, Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia. Email:


Multi-factor analyses of territory quality in relation to fitness components of adults are rare, especially in non-migratory species. I studied the influence of multiple attributes of territory quality (habitat type and the abundance of food and predators) on the reproductive success and survival of a threatened Australian passerine, the southern emu-wren Stipiturus malachurus. The abundance of frequently-selected prey types (lepidoptera, diptera, hemiptera and larvae) varied significantly across territories according to habitat type. Reproductive success (number of offspring fledged) was highest in territories containing a greater proportion of tall shrubland, which had the highest insect abundance of any habitat. Closed heathland and sedge/rushland also had high food abundance compared to other habitat types, but higher fledging success occurred only within closed heathland, possibly because predator density was lower in this habitat type. High snake density was associated with reduced adult survival during the breeding season and a lower probability of nest success. In sedge/rushland, any benefits of prey abundance may therefore be offset by a high density of predators. Emu-wren age and size were unrelated to breeding output of pairs, suggesting that ecological factors may swamp effects of individual quality on emu-wren fitness components. Preservation of tall shrubland and closed heathland habitats appear to be of key conservation priority for emu-wrens.