Superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

Few people can see a Superb fairy-wren and not marvel at the brilliant colours of the male and how tiny and delicate the birds are. Flitting around quickly they can’t help but attract the eye, and out of all the Fairy-wrens in the local area the Superbs are easily the most widely spread and commonly seen.

Sporting a brilliant blue crown, cheek and mantle in breeding season, the males stand out in stark contrast to the females that remain a drab brown with a white breast and belly, throughout the year. They breed from spring to autumn and are socially monogamous but not sexually monogamous. This means the female will mate with many males from surrounding territories, and almost all the chicks being brought up by a male and female pair are fathered by other males. They employ this breeding strategy because they live in extended families, where up to five related males will help provision the nest and new chicks, and by mating outside the group they avoid genetic inbreeding.

Their inquisitive and courageous nature means they adapt well to backyards and urban environments, and have even been seen in the Toowoomba CBD. If you’d like to attract them to your yard it’s best to have a mixture of shrubs and hedges for protection, and open lawn where they can hunt for insects. They’ll quite happily bathe in a shallow waterdish as well. In this photo (from left to right) is a male in breeding plumage, a non-breeding male, a female, and another non-breeding male.

For more photos and videos of Superb fairy-wrens have a look at my blog or the Bird Bites Facebook and Youtube channels.

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald 3rd of October 2023