Splendid Fairy-wren
Splendid Fairy-wren Image: Tony Morris
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    splendens
    Genus
    Malurus
    Family
    Maluridae
    Order
    Passeriformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    12 cm to 14 cm

Introduction

The nest of the Splendid Fairy-wren is so small that the female's long tail is bent during incubation.

Identification

The breeding plumage of the male Splendid Fairy-wren is predominantly blue, varying from cobalt-blue in the east of its range to violet-blue in the west.It has black bands at the base of the tail (absent in the violet-blue birds), across the breast and from the beak, through the eyes to join a band across the back of its neck. Its crown and cheek patches are paler blue. Wings and long tail are brown with a blue wash. His beak is black and his legs and feet are brown-grey. In non-breeding plumage, called eclipse, he is very similar to the female, being pale brown above and buff to white underneath although he retains the blue wash on wings and tail. The female does not have the blue wash on her wings, but does have a reddish-tan line from beak to eye that extends into a ring around her eye. Her beak is reddish-tan.

Habitat

Splendid Fairy-wrens live in arid to semi-arid areas, in mostly dense shrublands or woodlands of acacia, and mallee eucalypt with dense shrubs.

Distribution

These birds are widely distributed across Australia in two areas. One area is from about Shark Bay south through Western Australia, through South Australia, except the coast, to about the Flinders Ranges and the southern and central parts of Northern Territory. The eastern area include South Australia from the Flinders Ranges, the far north-western tip of Victoria, New South Wales east to about Moree and Balranald and south central Queensland.



Seasonality

These birds are mostly sedentary, defending a territory all year, but the younger females may disperse to another territory. In some areas they are semi-nomadic, depending on local conditions.

Feeding and diet

Like most of the fairy-wrens, Splendid Fairy-wrens eat mostly insects and forage on both the ground and in shrubs. They live in groups which forage together.

Communication

A rapid series of slightly metallic, high-pitched pips that blend into an 'undulating' call.

Breeding behaviours

The Splendid Fairy-wren female builds an oval domed nest of dry grass, strips of bark and rootlets, with an entrance two thirds of the way up one side. The female is the only member of the group to incubate the eggs, but all members of the group feed the chicks.

  • Breeding Season: mostly September-December, but can extend from August to April.
  • Clutch size: 2-4, mostly 3
  • Incubation: 15 days
  • Time in nest: 11 days

Conservation status

As with so many species, clearing of habitat is a major negative impact for the Splendid Fairy-wren. Cats and foxes also prey on them and they are often hit by vehicles as they are not strong fliers.

References

  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Higgins, P.J. and J.M. Peter (eds) 2002. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.