Family Thornbills (Acanthizidae)

Least Concern

Shy Heathwren (Calamanthus cautus)


French: Séricorne timide German: Sandhuscher Spanish: Sedosito tímido

Hylacola cauta


, 1843,

western belt of Murray River between Palmer and Caloote, South Australia


Along with C. pyrrhopygius, previously placed in Hylacola. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. whitlocki (Mathews, 1912) – S Wheatbelt of SW Western Australia.
  • C. c. cautus (Gould, 1843) – S South Australia (S from N Flinders Ranges) E to Victoria (Murray Mallee).
  • C. c. halmaturinus (Mathews, 1912) – Kangaroo I, off South Australia.
  • C. c. macrorhynchus Schodde & Mason, 1999 – mallee regions of C & SW New South Wales.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5–14 cm; 15 g. A terrestrial species with prominent white supercilium extending well behind eye, long tail held cocked; rufous base of tail and white in wing... read more


    Song a sweet melodious warbling, “chee-chee-chick-a-dee”, repeated; degree of mimicry... read more


    Prefers dense shrubby or heath understorey in mallee woodland, mallee shrubland or mallee heath in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, also spiders (Araneae) and seeds. Insects recorded in diet include beetles (Coleoptera), flies (Diptera), bugs (Hemiptera), lerp... read more


    Season Jul–Dec; often double-brooded. Likely to maintain territory in breeding season. Nest a compact dome, with side entrance at... read more


    Resident, may make local movements in response to severe drought, but little information.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common to uncommon, and generally local. Has declined or disappeared in many areas where mallee has been cleared or fragmented; now considered... read more

    Recommended citation

    Gregory, P. (2019). Shy Heathwren (Calamanthus cautus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 February 2019).