Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Superb Fairy-wren

The Superb Fairy-wren is the most widespread of the ten species of fairy-wren found in Australia. Their range extends along the south eastern coast of Australia from Brisbane to Adelaide. It was once an abundant species and was once common in urban areas. More images and info inside.

The Superb Fairy-wren males defend a territory of between 0.5 and 2 ha. They live in family groups with the young of the previous years remaining in their parents' territory and contributing to the care of the younger siblings. During the non-breeding period the males moult into brown plumage similar to the females except for the tail which remains blue. The males also have a black beak while females and juveniles have chestnut coloured beaks.

Fairy-wrens have been described as the "least faithful birds in the world" because DNA fingerprinting has revealed that more than three quarter of the young within a "family" group are sired by males form outside the group. Females prefer "high quality" males and therefore, 4% of the males in an area sire 50% of the offspring. The attribute of the male Superb Fairy-wrens most related to their attractiveness to females is the duration they hold their bright blue breeding plumage. Older males are more attractive than younger males. Some "top quality" males moult directly from breeding plumage to breeding plumage.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to photograph these birds. They move around a lot in the undergrowth and therefore it is pretty hard to actually lock focus on them. To get a crisp image of them a relatively fast shutter speed has to be used. I could have increased the ISO but I wanted to produce images which had minimal noise. I guess using a hide would have been an option but I never had a hide or a substitute for one available.

The last two images show the actual colour of the Superb Fairy-wrens breast. It is a very dark blue but is often mistaken for being black.

I will update this post with images of a female Superb fairy-wren when I actually capture one!
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