Ian’s Bird of the Week – Splendid Fairy-wren

Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens) by Ian Montgomery


Ian’s Bird of the Week – Splendid Fairy-wren  ~  Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 5/25/10

It has been about 4 years since a Fairy-wren featured as Bird of the Week. It’s not for nothing that the Superb Fairy-wren made the list (No. 78) in David Chandler and Dominic Couzens’s ‘100 Birds to See before You Die’, so let’s rectify that with the Splendid Fairy-wren.

Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens) by Ian Montgomery

Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens) by Ian

All the male Fairy-wrens are stunningly beautiful and some of their names reflect that: Superb, Splendid and Lovely before getting to more prosaic names like Purple-crowned and Variegated. Maybe the bird-namers should have consulted the thesaurus. Mine includes (under splendid): spiffy, ritzy, glorious, lavish, swanky and sublime; ‘imperial’ might fit the Purple-crowned well. Anyway, the Splendid lives up to its name, as you can see in the first photo, even if ‘splendid’ has connotations of grand, perhaps inappropriate for a tiny bird 14cm/5.5in in length, much of which is tail.

It’s not as well known as the Superb, which occurs in all the southeastern Australia capitals from Brisbane to Adelaide via Hobart, but the Splendid rules supreme in Perth. As addition, it has wide range throughout Australia east of the Great Divide with three distinct races in eastern, central and western Australia. The one in the first and second photos is the eastern race melanotus, photographed in southwestern Queensland, identifiable by it cobalt- rather than violet-blue colour, paler cheek patch, narrow breast band and black back – visible in the second photo – with the latter giving this race its other name of Black-backed Fairy-wren. Incidentally, Fairy-wrens are unrelated to Northern Hemisphere wrens and together with the grasswren and emu-wrens comprise the Australo-Papuan family Maluridae.
Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens) by Ian Montgomery

Splendid Fairywren (Malurus splendens) by Ian

The third photo shows a male of the nominate western race in transition from non-breeding to breeding plumage. Fairy-wrens, like some very colourful ducks such as the Mallard, shed their bright colours in the non-breeding plumage and acquire the ‘eclipse’ plumage. This is similar to that of the female, though eclipse male fairy-wrens are often subtly different from females and young birds. In the case of Splendid Fairy-wrens, the eclipse male is distinguishable from the female by having a dark rather than tan bill, greyish rather than tan eye-ring, dark lores (between the eye and the bill) and blue wings.

Best wishes,

Links: Fairywrens

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:The Splendid Fairywren is in the Maluridae Family which includes the 29 Australasian Wrens (Fairywren, Emu-wren, and Grasswren). They are in the Passeriformes Order.

Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, And His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonders to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and compassionate. (Psalms 111:2-4 NASB)

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