White-winged Fairy-wren, Malurus leucopterus

The White-winged Fairy-wren (Malurus leucopterus) is a unique species of passerine bird in the Maluridae family. This bird can be found from the middle of Queensland and South Australia to the other side of Western Australia. Similar to other fairy-wrens, males express a strong intensity of sexual dimorphism and feathers change to shining colors during breeding season. The female is the smaller of the two and has a sandy-brown body with soft-blue tail feathers. The male’s feathers change during breeding season; its wings turn white, and its body a vivid blue. Adolescent sexual males are almost impossible to tell apart from females, and are commonly the breeding males. In the spring and summer months, flocks of White-winged Fairy-wrens commonly include a radiantly colored mature male and smaller camouflaged brown birds. A total of three subspecies are identified in this species of fairy-wren. In addition to the mainland subspecies, one settles at Barrow Island northwest of Western Australia and the other at Dirk Hartog Island. The males from these islands differ somewhat with black breeding feathers rather than blue.

The White-winged Fairy-wren’s diet consists primarily of insects completed with tiny fruits and leaf buds. The birds feed in the shrubland habitats with low vegetation providing cover. Small flocks of birds maintain and protect their territories year-round like other cooperative breeding fairy-wren species. Flocks are made up of socially monogamous mates with various helper birds who help raise the babies. The helpers are offspring that have sexually matured and choose to stay with the flock one plus years after learning to fly. The White-winged Fairy-wren is thought to be promiscuous and helps raise the little ones from other pairings. The male wren picks flower petals and gives them to the females as part of the mating process.

Image Caption: Male White-winged Fairy-wren near Coolmunda Dam, Queensland. Credit: Matncathy/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)