Learn about Fairy Wrens

Hello again to all our Young Observers.

Today the very tiny birds , the Fairy Wrens, would like you to be on the lookout for them.

Illustration from Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol 12

Most of these Fairy Wrens like to live where there are lots of thick, even thorny, bushes as this gives them protection from bigger birds.
To encourage Fairy Wrens to your garden they love the plants “Lemon Scented Darwinia, Lemon Bottlebrush and Hakeas

Some of you who know how to walk or sit quietly , might have seen these spectacularly coloured tiny birds. Because the wrens are sometimes timid, if you stand further away with a pair of binoculars you will be able to see them clearly as they flit about and  move very quickly in and out of bushes.
You will have to look carefully and know their different markings so you know which is which. There are groups of Superb wrens in the little bushes as you walk from the lower carpark in the Mt Lofty Botanic Garden.

(There are lots more varieties of Fairy Wrens. You could look them up yourself, especially the Red Backed Fairy Wren!)

Wrens often live in groups of a nesting pair, with several “helper” birds who assist with feeding babies. Usually only the breeding male has the lovely colours. The helpers , male and female, are all similarly soft brown, with some species having colour in their tails.  Wrens like eating insects.

Here they are:

Superb Fairy Wren

Superb Fairy Wren: only about 14 cm long including their 6cm tail and weighing only 10g (about 2 sheets of paper). The breeding male bird has rich, electric blue head and cheeks, a black back and throat. His belly is grey-white and his bill is black.His wings are grey and tail a darker blue. The females are  soft brown, pale chests and pink beaks. Seen in Adelaide Hills especially.

Splendid Fairy Wren

Splendid Fairy Wren: paler blue head and cheeks, black behind his head and on chest and belly. Bright cobalt blue body and tail His beak and legs are brown black.  Females are soft brown with a blue brushed tail and reddish brown beaks

Variegated Fairy Wren

Variegated Fairy Wren: Mostly seen in Eastern states. Breeding Males have bright azure blue heads and ear coverts,  black neck band, chest and tummy. He has chestnut brown shoulders. 

White-winged Fairy Wren

White Winged Fairy Wren: The Breeding male has a bright blue body and tail with white wings, black beak . The females are sandy brown with a light blue tail.  They live in drier parts of Central Australia , Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. You can see them only 15mins from Adelaide at the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

Purple Crowned Fairy Wren

Purple Crowned Fairy Wren: These tiny birds live in North West Australia. The male and female pairs sing “duets” together constantly while they feed along creeks.

Southern Emu Wren

The Emu Wren: (Not strictly a Fairy Wren) He weighs 8g or half a chocolate frog. Can be found near Mt Compass and Mt Lofty Ranges.
“A tiny feathered ball with 6 wispy tail feathers twice its body length. Males have chestnut red plumage streaked with black, a vibrant rust coloured crown, sky-blue throat, chest and eyebrow and grey brown wings.” Females are darker with no crown or blue accents. They are very timid, and rare. The Mt Lofty Ranges variety have only 500 birds left.

We hope you have fun looking for these lovely, cheeky little birds somewhere near your garden.

Liz Hansman

References: “Urban Bird Watching Guide to Adelaide – by Ellen Rykes
Birds SA President – John Gitsham article
Government SA, Dept Environment & Water , “Good Living” website.

Could you send us a picture of a bird you see in your garden? Ask someone to help you to send it to us here