Superb fairywren (Malurus cyaneus)
The superb fairywren (Malurus cyaneus) is a passerine bird in the Australasian wren family, Maluridae, and is common and familiar across south-eastern Australia. The species is sedentary and territorial, also exhibiting a high degree of sexual dimorphism; the male in breeding plumage has a striking bright blue forehead, ear coverts, mantle, and tail, with a black mask and black or dark blue throat. Non-breeding males, females and juveniles are predominantly grey-brown in colour; this gave the early impression that males were polygamous, as all dull-coloured birds were taken for females.
Like other fairywrens, the superb fairywren is notable for several peculiar behavioural characteristics; the birds are socially monogamous and sexually promiscuous, meaning that although they form pairs between one male and one female, each partner will mate with other individuals and even assist in raising the young from such pairings. Male wrens pluck yellow petals and display them to females as part of a courtship display.
The superb fairywren can be found in almost any area that has at least a little dense undergrowth for shelter, including grasslands with scattered shrubs, moderately thick forest, woodland, heaths, and domestic gardens. It has adapted well to the urban environment and is common in suburban Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. The superb fairywren eats mostly insects and supplements its diet with seeds.
Like other fairywrens, the superb fairywren is unrelated to the true wren. It was previously classified as a member of the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae and later as a member of the warbler family Sylviidae before being placed in the newly recognised Maluridae in 1975. More recently, DNA analysis has shown the Maluridae family to be related to the Meliphagidae (honeyeaters), and the Pardalotidae (pardalotes, scrubwrens, thornbills, gerygones and allies) in the large superfamily Meliphagoidea.
Like other fairywrens, the superb fairywren is notable for its marked sexual dimorphism, males adopting a highly visible breeding plumage of brilliant iridescent blue contrasting with black and grey-brown. The brightly coloured crown and ear tufts are prominently featured in breeding displays. The blue plumage also reflects ultraviolet light strongly, and so may be even more prominent to other fairywrens, whose colour vision extends into this part of the spectrum.
Vocal communication among superb fairywrens is used primarily for communication between birds in a social group and for advertising and mobbing, or defending a territory.
Australian Capital TerritoryAustralian nativeBirdCanberraColoursFaunaFloraFloriadeFlowersGalahScenicSpringSuperb Fairy WrenJames Rolevink, from