Red-winged Fairy-wren, Malurus elegans

The Red-winged Fairy-wren (Malurus elegans) is a passerine bird in the fairy-wren family Maluridae. The southwestern edge of Western Australia is the native land to this lazy bird. The males of this species express a strong intensity of sexual dimorphism; their feathers change to a beautiful pattern of breeding colors. The black upper back and throat contrasts the red shoulders with a silvery-blue head, pale lower side and grey-brown wings and tail. This coloration greatly differs from the non-breeding males, females and juveniles. Although the males may have random black and blue feathers, their feathers are mainly grey-brown. There are no identified separate subspecies to the Red-winged Fairy-wren. The Variegated Fairy-wren and the Blue-breasted Fairy-wren are closely related and appear very much alike to the untrained eye. Evidence shows a declining number of Red-winged Fairy-wrens.

The Red-winged Fairy-wren feeds on insects with a thin pointed bill that has adapted to poking and capturing their prey. In the damp forests the most common eucalyptus tree, Karri (Eucalyptus marginata), is where the bird finds shelter and avoids predators. A small flock of birds cares for and protects their territories year round like other Fairy-wrens as a unified breeding species. The groups exist together as socially monogamous pairs’ with quite a few helper birds who help raise the little ones. The Red-winged Fairy-wren has a higher percentage of female helpers than other species of fairy-wren. Several songs and showcased flights have been documented for communication and mating in this species. The birds recognize other birds by singing a song and they are used to mark their territory as well. Part of the mating ritual by the males is to pick yellow petals and give them to the females.

Image Credit: Red-winged Fairy-wren, male in breeding plumage – Margaret River riverside walk. Credit: Cas Liber/Wikipedia