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16

Variegated Fairy-wren

(Malurus lamberti)
Alternate name(s): "Purple-backed Wren", "Lavender-flanked Wren", "Bernier Island Blue Wren", "Lambert's Superb Warbler", "Lambert's Wren", "Dulcet Fairy Wren"
Aboriginal name(s): "miril-yiril-yiri"
Collectively, the three species White-winged Fairy-wren, Splendid Fairy-wren and Variegated Fairy-wren, are called "miril-yiril-yiri" along the northern edge of the Nullarbor

Size: 13-14 cm
Weight: 6-11 g

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Variegated Fairy-wren at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "lamberti"

ADULT

MALE

BREEDING

Lateral view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of I. Duncan)
[South West Rocks, NSW, September 2012]

Lateral view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in breeding plumage; note the grey nape of the neck (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Near Kyogle, NSW, August 2013]

Race "assimilis"

ADULT

MALE

BREEDING

Frontal view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in breeding plumage
[Gundabooka NP, NSW, September 2012]

Lateral view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in breeding plumage
[Narrabri, NSW, November 2010]

The same male Variegated Fairy-wren as above, now shown together with two females
[Narrabri, NSW, November 2010]

Male Variegated Fairy-wren with its head turned, showing the purplish blue colour of its crown; this identifies the bird as a specimen of race "assimilis"
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, September 2008]

Two male Variegated Fairy-wrens conveniently aligned such that one is seen from the front, the other sideways; note the complexity of the colour patterns giving the species its name
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, September 2008]

Male Variegated Fairy-wren displaying the brilliance of his colour patterns; click on image for slightly different posture
[Yarrie Lake, NSW, October 2016]

Lateral view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Dorsal view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, October 2013]

This male Variegated Fairy-wren, which was observed by us hunting for insects in dense scrub, is moulting out of its breeding plumage
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, April 2011]

Moulting male Variegated Fairy-wren observed in the Western Australian wheat belt (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Merredin, WA, February 2015]

NON-BREEDING

Frontal view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in non-breeding plumage
[The Drip Gorge, Goulburn NP, NSW, April 2016]

Frontal view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in non-breeding plumage
[The Drip Gorge, Goulburn NP, NSW, April 2016]

Near-dorsal view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in non-breeding plumage
[The Drip Gorge, Goulburn NP, NSW, April 2016]

Dorsal view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in non-breeding plumage
[The Drip Gorge, Goulburn NP, NSW, April 2016]

FEMALE

Frontal view of a female Variegated Fairy-wren, race "assimilis"
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, April 2011]

Near-frontal view of a female Variegated Fairy-wren
[Gundabooka NP, NSW, September 2012]

Near-frontal view of a female Variegated Fairy-wren, different posture
[Gundabooka NP, NSW, September 2012]

Near-lateral view of a female Variegated Fairy-wren
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, April 2011]

Lateral view of a female Variegated Fairy-wren
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, April 2011]

Lateral view of a female Variegated Fairy-wren looking for prey in an eucalypt tree
[Pilliga, NSW, December 2013]

The same female Variegated Fairy-wren as above, now seen more from behind; note the brown tint at the base of the wings
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, April 2011]

Female Variegated Fairy-wren taking a bath
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, February 2009]

Twitcher's tip

White lining of the tail feathers is characteristic of Variegated Fairy-wrens - note that many field guides do not mention this distinguishing feature!

Two views of a male Variegated Fairy-wren in non-breeding plumage, with the white lining of its tail feathers prominently visible
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, July 2011]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Three fledgling Variegated Fairy-wren chicks hiding low in a Wilga tree
[Gundabooka NP, NSW, September 2012]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Jan Eggs: 3 - 4 Incubation period: 14 - 16 days Fledging age: 10 - 12 days

Variegated Fairy-wren nest in a low shrub (photo courtesy of L. Scott)
[Roseberry Creek Valley, near Toonumbar NP, northern NSW, September 2016]

Variegated Fairy-wrens have a particularly short fledging period for their chicks, compared to the incubation period. This leads to the effect shown below.

Frontal view of a Variegated Fairy-wren fledgling - it and its siblings could hardly fly; from the front "the job looks almost complete"
[Gundabooka NP, NSW, September 2012]

Dorsal view of a Variegated Fairy-wren fledgling; from behind the story is quite different - in 10-12 days there is just not enough time to grow long tail feathers...
[Gundabooka NP, NSW, September 2012]

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female Dependent care: Family clan

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Dome Material: Bark fibres, grass stems, webs Height above ground: 0.1 - 0.4 m

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 17 x 13 mm Colour: Creamy, with light-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Family clan

Although territorial, we have seen Variegated Fairy-wrens share their territories with Superb Fairy-wrens, even during the breeding season.

Like other Fairy-wrens, male Variegated Fairy-wrens have distinctly different breeding and eclipse plumages.

Lateral view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren moulting into breeding plumage
[Manning Point, NSW, July 2013]

The plumage of this male Variegated Fairy-wren shows clear signs of wear late in spring, e.g. on the cap, where the blue sheen has been lost (photo courtesy of A. Campbell)
[Mount McEuen, QLD, November 2016]

The plumage of this male Variegated Fairy-wren shows clear signs of wear late in spring, e.g. on the cap, where the blue sheen has been lost (photo courtesy of A. Campbell)
[Mount McEuen, QLD, November 2016]

Near-frontal view of a male Variegated Fairy-wren just out of the bathtub (photo courtesy of A. Campbell)
[Mount McEuen, QLD, November 2016]

Food, Diet

Fairy-wrens feed on small animals, such as insects.

Dad Variegated Fairy-wren bringing food for his chicks
[Gundabooka NP, NSW, September 2012]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

varwren_art_20131125.mp3 lamberti
(SE QLD)
Pair Q&A © ART
 
varwren_20141023.mp3 assimilis
(NW NSW)
Contact calls(?) © MD
varwren_20140212.mp3 assimilis
(NW NSW)
Territorial call(?) © MD
varwren_20140127.mp3 assimilis
(NW NSW)
Warning call (female) © MD
varwren_20151010.mp3 assimilis
(NW NSW)
Alarm calls (clan; near nest?) © MD
varwren_20151010_2.mp3 assimilis
(NW NSW)
Alarm calls (clan; near nest?) © MD
varwren_20140218.mp3 assimilis
(NW NSW)
Curious/ investigating © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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