Everything You Need To Know About Malurus leucopterus White-winged Fairywren

  • 1 | 7The adult male in its striking, breeding plumage is either dark blue or glossy black with white shoulder patches, and it has a mid to dark blue tail. The glossy black plumage is found on the subspecies edouardi, found only on Dirk Hartog and Barrow Islands off Western Australia, while the dark blue is found on the mainland subspecies, leuconotus. The adult female has a drab grey-brown crown, back and wings, grey tail faintly washed blue. She is whitish below and her flanks and lower underparts are washed dull buff. Immature birds are like the female. The male does not obtain full plumage until its fourth year. This species is also called the Black-and-White, Blue-and-White or White-backed Fairy-wren; or the Pied, White-backed or White-winged Wren.

The white-winged fairywren (Malurus leucopterus) is a small passerine bird native to Australia. Australia’s fairy-wrens have the reputation of being brightly coloured, and the White-winged Fairy-wren is one of the most striking.

  • 2 | 7The male of the similar splendid fairy-wren,Malurus splendens, has rich violet blue on its crown, back, shoulders, throat and most of its under surface, but its ear tufts are sky blue. The male of the Red-backed fairywren, Malurus malanocephalus, is glossy black, but with fiery orange shoulders, back and rump. The male White- shouldered Fairy-wren, Malurus alboscapulatus, is entirely glossy black, except for white shoulders.
  • 3 | 7The white-winged fairywren is found from Dirk Hartog Island and coast of Western Australia east across mainland (not north) to central and southern Queensland, central New South Wales and NW Victoria. It is replaced by the Red-backed Fairy-wren north of 20 degrees South.

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The white-winged fairywren is found in low shrubland throughout arid and semi-arid areas, especially in samphire on saltpans and chenopod (for example saltbush) shrublands. It is replaced by the Splendid Fairy-wren where vegetation is taller. The White-winged Fairy-wren stays in the one area, but may be locally nomadic outside the breeding season.

  • 5 | 7The white-winged fairywren eats insects, especially beetles(Coleoptera) and also spiders (Araneae). It also eats some seeds of the plant genera Rhagodia, Chenopodium (saltbush for example), Euphorbia (Spurges) and Portulaca. Its small size allows this species to glean from leaves and stems of dense shrubs. It also hop-searches on the ground, and makes brief aerial sorties to catch insects.
  • 6 | 7The white-winged fairywren is socially monogomous but sexually promiscuous. It is a cooperative breeder and appears to live in groups. Its nest is built by the female and is a domed structure measuring 10 x 6cm, with a side entrance. The nest is made from fine grasses, lined with plant down and feathers. It is usually less than 1m above ground, in the middle of dense thorny bush. The female incubates the eggs and all members of the group feed the chicks for about four weeks. The young remain in the family group.
  • 7 | 7Populations of White-winged fairywrens have decreased due to various types of habitat destruction – clearing of chenopod shrublans and of lignum thickets in periodically flooded lake beds, in western New South Wales; clearing of native vegetation in the Murray-Mallee region; heavy grazing of bluebrush and saltbush areas; and irrigation in in the Murray valley. Populations are also adversely affected, at least in the short term, by burning of their habitat. Increased salinisation in some areas appears to be of benefit.

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