While traveling through Australia, be sure to look out for the many varieties of Fairy-wrens. They are inquisitive little birds that fly in and out of the brush, teasing you with quick glimpses of their beautiful colors. Make sure you have your camera loaded and ready at all times so you can capture even better images than these.
Australia has many types of beautiful birds, although I love these little inquisitive wrens the best. During the breeding season, the magnificent male Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus splendens) dazzles many photographers with its vibrant blue colors as they flit about in the bushes. The female as with most birds are not as beautiful.
Mother and juvenile Splendid Fairy-wren, similar in color to the Superb Fairy-wren
The Splendid Fairy-wrens live mainly in a wooded area throughout the South Western, the Central and the Eastern inland of Australia. You can often see them in the bushes beside the rivers or any natural bushland.
Splendid Wrens Live in Groups
The wrens have a great way of caring for their young. The females incubate the eggs and the others in the group bring food to the females, she keeps some for herself then feeds the rest to her babies. The group also helps to remove the faeces from the nests; even though nests are clean, many of the young do not survive their first winter.
When there is a threat to the nest, the adults do a distracting dance ruffling their feathers and dropping their tails and run around doing the rodent run or dance.
Wrens forage among the small shrubs and on the ground feeding on many insects. During the day, they spend time bathing, preening their feathers and drinking. Again, the benefit of belonging to groups is that these birds share the cleaning process by cleaning each other. (I think humans could learn something from these birds and their way of helping each other).
They breed in small groups, helping each other attend the feeding of their young. The female is the busy one; she builds the nest and robs materials from older nests to build a new one, and incubate the eggs, then the members of the group feed the chicks. She lays 2-4 white speckled reddish-brown eggs. Incubation is 14-15 days. Then the group feeds them for 10-13 days after hatching. Groups allow the female to have several broods each season with a new nest for each one.
They are a smallish bird measuring about 115 mm to 135 mm.
The young are the same color as the female although their tail is brown. They will start to color during their first winter.
Other Names for The Splendid Wren
Black Backed Blue Wren, Banded Wren
Other Species of Fairy-wrens
Very proud Superb Fairy-wren (Malarus cyaneus)
These beautiful wrens, unlike the Splendid Fairy-wren, spend most of their time foraging on the ground for food, living in Central Queensland down to Victoria. The male often has many other females in their group. Living like a harem situation, which may mean many of the eggs belong to different females.
How to distinguish this female from the Splendid: the superb female normally is brown with a dull red-orange area around the eye and bill, which is not on the Splendid.
Their nest is a dome-like structure made with woven grasses and webs, built close to the ground in the shrubbery. They lay 3-4 matte eggs with reddish-brown spots. Incubation is 14 days. Chicks are born blind; their eyes open by about the fifth day.
Male Superb Fairy-wren singing to his mates
Variegated Fairy-wren (Malurus lamberti)
Variegated Fairy-wren with chestnut patches on wings
These live all over Australia except for the Northern tip of Queensland. The depth of colours in the male will vary among the four subspecies, throughout Australia. The crown and sides of the head is blue, with beautiful chestnut colored patches on their sides above the wings. The bill of this wren is larger than most of the other fairy-wrens. Feeding mostly off the ground around the small shrubs on small insects, like ants, bugs, flies and grasshoppers.
The female lays 2-4 matte white eggs with speckles, size about 12 x 16 mm. Once babies hatch the group will help with the feeding and care as with the other wrens.
Female Variegated Fairy Wren in shrubs at Shark Bay
Many Other Fairy-wrens
Red-backed Fairy-wren (Malarus melanocephalus)
This Fairy-wren lives along the North West coastal tip across North Queensland and down the east coast of Australia. These often forage in groups of up to twenty or more. The male has a striking red patch on its back and rump, with the rest being a glossy black. The non-breeding plumage is brown and off white on the underbelly the same as the females and juvenile birds.
Red Winged fairy-wren (Malurus Elegans)
These are the largest of the chestnut shouldered fairy wrens. These live in the shrubberies beside the creeks and swamps in the far South Western corner of Western Australian Darling and Stirling ranges.
Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (Malurus coronatus)
This Fairy-wren lives only in the far North of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. I have not been lucky enough to get a glimpse of this one yet, still hoping. The male has a purple crown on its head with a black patch in the centre of the crown. The face, lore and nape is black, with a brown back and white underneath with blue tail. The female is mainly chestnut with a blue tail.
Lovely Fairy-wren (Malurus amabilis)
You can see this wren in the Northeast of Queensland along the coast down towards Townsville. The male has a white ring around its eye, with a blue head and white underneath and black on the wings. The tail is blue with white on the edge. The female has a blue head and white underneath without the black on the male.
Have You Seen Any of These Wrens?
When travelling in Australia always be sure to have your camera ready to capture some of these beautiful wrens. I wish I had photos of all these other ones.