Splendid Fairy-Wren

Splendid Fairy-Wren

Splendid wren, Blue wren

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Malurus splendens
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
5-6 yrs
WEIGHT
9 g
LENGTH
14 cm

The Splendid fairy-wren is a small, long-tailed bird found across much of the Australian continent. The breeding male is distinctive with a predominantly bright blue and black coloration. The non-breeding male is brown with blue in the wings and a bluish tail. The female resembles the non-breeding male but has a chestnut bill and eye-patch. Both males and females molt in autumn after breeding, with males assuming an eclipse non-breeding plumage. They will molt again into nuptial plumage in winter or spring. Some older males, however, may remain blue all year, molting directly from one year's nuptial plumage to the next.

Distribution

Splendid fairy-wrens occur on the Australian continent from central-western New South Wales and southwestern Queensland over to coastal Western Australia. They inhabit predominantly arid and semi-arid regions. They live in savannah, shrubland, dry forests, woodlands of acacia, and mallee eucalypt with dense shrubs.

Splendid Fairy-Wren habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Splendid fairy-wrens are active and restless feeders; they feed mainly on open ground near the shelter, but also through the lower foliage. They move in a series of jaunty hops and bounces, with their long tail held upright and rarely still. During spring and summer, birds are active in bursts throughout the day and accompany their foraging with song. Insects are numerous and easy to catch, which allows the birds to rest between forays. The group of wrens often shelters and rests together during the heat of the day. During the winter, when food is harder to find they spend the day foraging continuously. Splendid fairy-wrens live in groups of 2 to 8 individuals and remain in their territory defending it year-round. The group consists of a socially monogamous pair with one or more male or female helper birds that were hatched in the territory, though they may not necessarily be the offspring of the main pair. Helper birds assist in defending the territory and feeding and rearing the young. Birds in a group roost side-by-side in dense cover as well as engaging in mutual preening. Splendid fairy-wrens communicate vocally and their call is described as a gushing reel. A soft single 'trrt' serves as a contact call within a foraging group, while the alarm call is a 'tsit'. Females emit a 'purr' while brooding. Cuckoos and other intruders may be greeted with a threat posture and churring threat.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Splendid fairy-wrens are carnivores (insectivores). Their diet includes a wide range of small creatures, mostly arthropods such as ants, grasshoppers, crickets, spiders and bugs. This is supplemented by small quantities of seeds, flowers, and fruit.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
late August-January
INCUBATION PERIOD
14-15 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
10-13 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
2-4 eggs

Although pairs of Splendid fairy-wrens are socially monogamous, they exhibit a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system; pairs bond for life but each partner will regularly mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such trysts. Breeding occurs from late August to January. During this time males perform several courtship displays; the 'sea horse flight,' so named for the similarity of movements to those by a seahorse. It is an exaggerated undulating flight where the male, with his neck extended and his head feathers erect, flies and tilts his body from horizontal to vertical and by rapidly beating wings is able to descend slowly and spring upwards after alighting on the ground. The 'face fan' display may be seen as a part of aggressive or mating display behaviors; it involves the flaring of the blue ear tufts by erecting the feathers. The nest is built by the female; it is a round or domed structure made of loosely woven grasses and spider webs, with an entrance in one side close to the ground and well-concealed in thick and often thorny vegetation. One or two broods may be laid during the breeding season. The female lays a clutch of 2 to 4 dull white eggs with reddish-brown splotches and spots which she incubates for 14-15 days. After hatching, nestlings are fed by all group members for 10-13 days, by which time they are fledged. Young birds remain in the family group as helpers for a year or more before moving to another group. In this role, they feed and care for subsequent broods.

Population

Population threats

The biggest threat to Splendid fairy-wren is habitat loss. Major nest predators include Australian magpies, butcherbirds, laughing kookaburra, crows and ravens, shrike-thrushes as well as introduced mammals such as the red fox, cat, and black rat. Wrens are also often hit by vehicles.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Splendid fairy-wren is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Like other species of fairywrens, Splendid fairywrens may use a 'rodent-run' display to distract predators from nests with chicks. While doing this, the head, neck, and tail of the bird are lowered, the wings are held out and the feathers are fluffed as the bird runs rapidly and voices a continuous alarm call.
  • Splendid fairy-wrens mostly forage on the ground or in shrubs that are less than two meters above the ground; this has been termed 'hop-searching'.
  • Male Splendid fairy-wrens have another interesting habit during the breeding season. They pluck petals (predominantly pink and purple ones which contrast with their plumage) and show them to female fairy-wrens. Petals often form part of a courtship display and are presented to a female in the male fairy-wren's own or another territory. Outside the breeding season, males may sometimes still show petals to females in other territories, presumably to promote themselves. Thus, petal-carrying might be a behavior that strengthens the pair-bond. Petal carrying might also be a way for extra males to gain matings with the female.
  • Adult fairy-wrens feed their young a different diet, conveying larger items such as caterpillars and grasshoppers to nestlings.
  • Splendid fairy-wrens build so small nests that the female's long tail is always bent during incubation.
  • Splendid fairy-wrens are not shy birds and will gladly feed from feeders or from tables on verandahs without fear. It is said that they love cheese!

References

1. Splendid Fairy-Wren on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splendid_fairywren
2. Splendid Fairy-Wren on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22703740/93934738

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