The rufous-crowned emu-wren is one of three species of the genus Stipiturus, commonly known as emu-wrens, found across southern and central Australia. It was first described in 1899 by Archibald James Campbell, more than a century after its relative the Southern Emu-wren. Its species name is derived from the Latin words rufus "red" and ceps "head". No subspecies are recognised, although birds from Western Australia may have redder plumage, and females more blue on the face and lores. It has been considered a subspecies of the Southern and Mallee Emu-wrens in the past; with anywhere from one to three species recognised. The common name of the genus is derived from the resemblance of their tails to the feathers of an Emu.
The rufous-crowned emu-wren is the smallest and most brightly coloured of the three emu wren species. The adult male has reddish upperparts with faint streaks, with a prominently rufous crown and grey-brown wings. It has a bright sky blue throat, upper chest, lores and ear coverts. The lores and ear coverts, and border chest are streaked with black. The tail is double the body length, and is composed of six filamentous feathers, the central two of which are longer than the lateral ones. The underparts are buff. The bill, feet and eyes are brown. The female resembles the male but lacks much of the blue plumage and redder crown. Its throat is a yellow buff, and it has some blue-tinged streaked ear coverts. Its bill is pale brown.
Distribution and habitat
The rufous-crowned emu-wren is found across the arid interior of northern central Australia, from the Simpson Desert in the southeast and Barkly Tableland in the northeast, across the centre to the Western Australian coast and the Pilbara in the northwest. There is an isolated population to the east in southwestern Queensland bounded by Dajarra, Winton, Fermoy and Boulia. It lives in spinifex shrubland.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Stipiturus ruficeps". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Rowley and Russell, p. 211.
- Wade P. (ed.) (1977). Every Australian Bird Illustrated. Rigby. p. 188. ISBN 0-7270-0009-8.
- Rowley and Russell, plate 5.
- Rowley and Russell, p. 210.