Superb Fairywren

Male Superb Fairywren foraging amongst fallen leaves on grassy ground


A female Superb Fairy-Wren on leaf-littered ground


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Scientific Name: Malurus cyaneus

Size: 14 to 16 cm

What does it look and sound like?

Adult male Superb Fairywrens are the most brightly coloured of the species, especially during the breeding season. They have rich blue and black plumage above and on the throat. The belly is grey-white and the bill is black. Females and young birds are mostly brown above with a red-orange area around the eye and a brown bill. Females have a pale greenish gloss on the otherwise brown tail, which is absent in young birds. The legs are brown in both sexes. Males from further inland and in the south-west of the range have more blue on the back and underparts. The Superb Fairywren gives a series of high‑pitched trills, which are given by both sexes. The male often extends these trills into song.

Several other species of fairywren are found in Australia. The males of each species are quite distinct, but the females and young birds are often difficult to separate. Of the species that overlap in range with the Superb Fairywren, the female White-winged Fairywren, M. leucopterus, lacks the chestnut colour around the eye, while the female Variegated Fairywren, M. lamberti, has a dull grey-blue wash. Both the Superb and White-winged Fairywrens are similar in size, measuring about 13 to 14 cm. The Variegated Fairy-wren is slightly larger in size and has a longer tail.

Where is it found?

Superb Fairywrens are found south of the Tropic of Capricorn through eastern Australia and Tasmania to the southeastern corner of South Australia.

What are its habitats & habits?

They are seen in most habitat types where suitable dense cover and low shrubs occur. They are common in urban parks and gardens, and can be seen in small social groups. These groups normally consist of one male and several females and young birds. Superb Fairywrens feed on insects and other small arthropods. These are caught mostly on the ground, but may also be taken from low bushes. Feeding takes place in small social groups. The breeding season of the Superb Fairywren is quite long, July to March, but most activity takes place around September to January. The nest is a dome-shaped structure of grasses and other fine material. It is usually placed in a low bush and is constructed by the female. The female also incubates the eggs alone, but both sexes feed the young. Other members of the group will also help with the feeding of the young.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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