Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Variegated Fairy-wren
Also known as: Purple-backed Fairy-wren
Malurus lamberti
(Viewing 4 of 11 photos)

Click to listen to sound samples Variegated Fairy-wrens are the most widespread of all the fairy-wrens in Australia. There are five subspecies, two from the sandstone escarpments of the tropical north, one on Bernier Island in W.A., another down the east coast from about Bundaberg south to near the Victorian border, and the most widespread one, subspecies "assimilis" which ranges over most of arid and semi-arid inland AustraIia. The nominate subspecies "lamberti" is common in undisturbed bushland around Sydney and Brisbane where it sometimes occurs alongside Superb Fairy-wrens and in NE NSW and SE Qld Red-backed Fairy-wrens as well, making three species all in the one place. The subpecies "assimilis" just makes it down the coast into the northern suburbs of Perth, but Variegated Fairy-wrens don't occur around Adelaide, Melbourne, Darwin or in Tasmania. In fact they are absent from most of Victoria (except the mallee in the NW), the far SW of W.A. (where they are replaced by the very similar Blue-breasted and Red-winged Fairy-wrens), Cape York (replaced there by the Lovely Fairy-wren), most of the Top End of the N.T. and the Nullabor Plain.

In most areas, Variegated Fairy-wrens are sedentary and occupy territories in family groups which consist of an adult pair and extra birds, usually the progeny of previous nestings. As many as three coloured male birds have been recorded in a group, but only one of these is the breeding adult male. Subordinate males can be distinguished by a brownish patch in the middle of the blue crown feathers. Studies of banded birds have recorded birds of up to eight years of age.

Variegated Fairy-wrens inhabit low, sometimes prickly shrubland where they both feed and nest. They spend less time foraging on the ground than other fairy-wrens. They are shy and retiring in nature - males in particular seem to keep a low profile unless something threatens the nest or young. Their presence is best detected by hearing the distinctive contact call which they utter frequently when foraging (listen on sound page)


Photo: 536001

536001 ... Variegated Fairy-wren, male, Round Hill N.S.W.

Photo: 536203

536203 ... Variegated Fairy-wren, female, Round Hill, NSW.

Photo: 536204

536204 ... Variegated Fairy-wren, male, McPherson Range, S.E. Queensland.

Photo: 536205-D

536205-D ... Variegated Fairy-wren, male, 'Kilcowera' Station, S.W. Queensland.


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