This week we will showcase one of Australia’s most loved bird species, the Fairy-wren, often commonly known as the Blue Wren. This small and very agile, constantly moving bird is often seen in many gardens, parks and around family homes. They are insectivorous annuals and can often be found circumnavigating the same territory many times in a day. Above photo is of a male and female Splendid Fairy-wren together, the male is in breeding plumage.
Those who have purchased my book will have seen these birds on my book cover. There are nine species of Fairy-wren endemic to Australia, each having several sub-species (races). I have seen five species, and look forward to one day seeing the other four. Each specie is found in a particular part of Australia, some being found not only in the same state, but also sharing the same habitat living next to each other. The Splendid Fairy-wren is found mainly in the south-western Australia (Western Australia) and inland arid areas including the other mainland states excluding Tasmania.
A feature of these birds is the beautiful plumage of the male when breeding, compared to the lifelong brown uninteresting plumage of the female. When the males return to non breeding plumage they can at a distance be mistaken for females, but close examination of tail colour, facial colour and wing tinting will differentiate them. One of the problems in differentiating is young males from females, as is the design of many birds while they are juvenile and immature, the males resemble the earthy colour of the female till they reach maturity.
This is our loving Creator’s design to help hide and protect the young as well as the female while nesting, making them blend in with the dark brown tree bark surroundings, protecting them from bird eating predators, in particular, raptors. of the Fairy-wrens probably the most well known and widely seen is the Superb fairy-wren which is mainly endemic to eastern Australia and also Tasmania. As this is where most Australians live it is the specie that most are familiar with.
Those who follow my blog know that I frequently post this bird, being a commonly seen all year round bird of the Sydney area, seen in most parks, reserves and many home gardens. Many of my international followers tell me this is their favourite Australian bird, and is the one that birders from overseas ask me to show them when they visit our national parks.
Fairy-wrens are often difficult to see and photograph when in among the low lying bushes and ferns, and often you will hear their soft high pitched call well before you actually see them. It is true to say that if they did not call you probably, most of the time, would never know they were there, but for slight vegetation movement. Eclipse is the term given for the gradual plumage change of the male when he undergoes transformation to and from breeding plumage. He may no longer look like a blue wren for a few months, but resemble his female partners, till he changes back, about twice a year. Most only notice him in breeding plumage.
The Variegated fairy-wren is a more rarely seen specie often found with the Superb, being the most widely spread throughout Australia’s mainland, being in all states including desert regions. It is quite brilliant in the sunlight with its rich colours, and I have found it to be the most difficult to photograph.
The Red-winged Fairy-wren on the other hand, though looking similar to the variegated is the rarest Fairy-wren being found only in the very south-west tip of Western Australia. We saw it in the Margaret River area.
Finally, our most recent lifer as my blog followers would know from our recent bird experience in the Lamington Mountain National Park the Red-backed Fairy-wren. This bird is difficult to photograph due to its black face and body, but can easily be picked out at a distance due to the contrasting bright red back. This bird is found across far northern Australian mainland and down the east coast to NSW border.
The Fairy-wrens are very small and very agile, constantly on the move, and when the male is in breeding plumage, you will often see the female leading a clutch of 3 to 4 chicks all staying close and following for safety. The male leads the way, and often becomes a distraction for possible predators, while the female leads the brood away to safety. The female builds the nest and the male helps the female feed the young. They form a small social group of fairy-wren helping each other out, the males sometimes in ways we may not ethically approve.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.“– Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Have a wonderful week!