The longer, warmer days of spring are signalling to birds that it is time to start breeding and one such species which is very easy to spot at the moment is the Superb Fairy-wren, especially the males as their plumage changes colour during the breeding season. They are frequently spotted in bushes and grassy areas, often in small family groups made up of a dominant male, a female and young birds.
Superb Fairy-wrens are extroverted little birds with long brown tails, which they usually hold cocked-up. There can be quite a mix of different plumages within a group. The females and young males are mousey-brown colour with a whitish throat and breast, while their bill and area around their eyes is red-brown. When the male is not breeding his plumage is much like the female’s except his bill is black and his face is grey-brown.
By contrast, when the adult male moults into his breeding plumage there is quite a change in his appearance. His upper body and breast transform into bright, deep blues with black banding and his tail becomes blue too. To call to each other they use a series of trilling notes, which strengthen into a strong downward cascade of more musical notes.
When they nest, they make a nest in a small sphere with a side entrance, built using grass stems, rootlets and lined with feathers. It is usually well hidden in a clump of grass or low, dense shrub. They will lay 3 – 4 small eggs, which are white with brown speckles. The female will incubate the eggs, and once they hatch the rest of the family group helps to feed the young chicks.
They are quite gregarious and active and can often be seen out in the open, moving briskly through bushes and over short grass looking for insects and other invertebrates, as well as earthworms and seeds to eat. However when they feel threatened will disappear quickly into nearby bushes. Once in the bushes they can be quite difficult to see.
Look out for Superb Fairy-wrens throughout the Parklands wherever there are bushes and open grassy areas.