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.
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.
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.
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)