Saturday, 16 February 2013

Away with the fairies

When I was planning to go to the east coast of Australia, if you had asked me beforehand if there was a particular bird I wanted to see, I would have immediately answered "Superb Fairy-wren"!  Flick through any Australian bird guide and amongst all the other ludicrously-coloured birds like the parrots, honeyeaters and finches you get there will be a few pages of Fairy-wrens which have always held special fascination for me.  They are tiny hyperactive birds, about the size of a Long-tailed Tit and each one as beautiful as the next.  There are nine in total found in different parts of Australia, and on our trip we saw three of these and each one was a little stunner and well worth the long flight....

Superb Fairy-wren

These wrens were by far the most common, once you tuned in to their song, not unlike a scratchy Goldcrest, they are easy to find, many places we went around the Sydney area held them, even McDonald's car park!  The males are absolutely amazing and everything I had hoped they would be, the blue on them shimmers and contrasts well with the black mask and throat.  The females (and eclipse males) of all the wrens look very similar being brown with a red mask, this one is a Superb Fairy-wren at Sydney Olympic Park where they are particularly common.

Variegated Fairy-wren

We only saw these birds in Hervey Bay, Queensland but they are widespread down the east coast and like the Superbs, males have black and blue head markings but also show a chestnut shoulder patch.

Red-backed Fairy-wren

More of a northern species, we saw these wrens at two sites in Queensland, at Hervey Bay where this photograph was taken and at Tyto Wetland Reserve.

Splendid Fairy-wren

Undoubtedly the most stunning of the wrens, the males being completely electric blue, unfortunately, they are only found in the outback areas where we didn't have chance to go. However on a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park just west of Sydney they did have a pair in one of their collections, and despite the wire mesh, I couldn't resist taking a few photos.  This is definitely a bird I will have to go back to see in the wild.....

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