Fairywrens are small, energetic and spectacularly coloured birds that are often visible in city parks and gardens. They are also the swingers of the bird world. Wife and husband swapping is a way of life in this broad minded family.
The Superb fairywren (yes that is it’s name) is common across the South Eastern states of Australia and can be seen frequently in suburbia as electric blue flashes through the undergrowth. It is one of fourteen species of Fairywren spread across Australia and Papua New Guinea. They are not related to the wrens of the Northern hemisphere.
When in full breeding plumage, the male is a magnificent blend of metallic blues on polished black over a buff underbelly. He proudly displays his colours as he serenades from the top of low scrub or bushes. The female and younger males are rather drab, brown and buff birds but are, nevertheless engaging in their own way. Like most members of the various wren families, even the dull birds are noisy and spark with life.
Fairywrens are notorious for their unusual sexual behaviour. Like many other birds they form pairs that may stay together for more than one season but both male and female will seek multiple matings. Regardless of who fertilises the eggs, both parents play an active part in raising the offspring and may also support the third party with the upbringing of his or her offspring.
It is hardly surprising that the brightly coloured males are in demand as they are also known to be romantics. The male will pluck yellow flower petals and display them against his metallic blue as part of an elaborate courtship ritual.
I took these photographs in Sydney during a walk of the South Head at Watson Bay.The Superb fairy wren can often be seen flitting through the low scrub on the cliff top walk. Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Watson Bay; the walk up to the cliff tops is short and picturesque and just enough to hone your appetite ready for fish and chips from the Doyle’s takeaway kiosk by the ferry terminal. Enjoy your fish and chips on the grass surrounded by cockatoos, lorikeets, Crested pigeon and maybe even a kookaburra or two, but keep an eye on your chips, as the Silver gulls never miss an opportunity.
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