Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

© Brad Leue/AWC

Quick Facts

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Malurus coronatus
  • FAMILY: Maluridae (Fairy-wrens, Grasswrens and Emu-wrens) National Conservation Status: Endangered (Western subspecies)
  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered in WA (Western subspecies); Near-threatened in NT (Eastern subspecies)
  • SURVIVING POPULATION: 5,000 – 9,800 (Western subspecies)
What Is Awc Doing Anja Skroblin Purple Crowned Fairy Wren © Anja Skroblin/AWC

What is AWC doing?

AWC is protecting riparian vegetation on its Mornington-Marion Downs, home to the endangered western subspecies, and Pungalina-Seven Emu, home to the eastern subspecies, by implementing a program of fire management and introduced herbivore control. AWC’s EcoFire prescribed burning program operates across a vast area of the central Kimberley region, and helps to increase the patchiness of burns and the decrease the frequency of intense wildfires. EcoFire helps to protect Purple-crowned Fairy-wren habitat across the central Kimberley.

Ecofire Research Into Effects Of Fire On Mammal Survival © Wayne Lawler/AWC

Threats to the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

Purple-crowned Fairy-wren’s dense riparian habitat is threatened by feral herbivores and wildfires. Grazing of livestock has been implicated in the destruction of habitat, and disappearance of the fairy-wren from parts of its range. Riparian vegetation is also sensitive to fire, which may render habitat unsuitable.

About the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is a small energetic bird. Plumage varies between the sexes. During the breeding season, males have a crown of bright purple surrounded by black, whereas females have grey heads and chestnut-coloured cheek patches. Both sexes have brown backs and wings, and a paler buff to the belly. Their tails are bright blue and perky. Unlike other Fairy-wrens, Purple-crowns are monogamous and do not seek matings outside their pair. Long-term research on purple-crowned fairy-wrens at Mornington has shown that individuals can live to more than 10 years old, and dense Pandanus supports larger family groups.

Range and Abundance

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is a specialist of dense riparian vegetation in northern Australia. It occurs as two subspecies. The western subspecies is found in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia and in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory. The eastern race occurs on rivers that drain into the Gulf of Carpentaria. It has an extremely patchy distribution and has declined in parts of its range.

Ecology

The purple-crowned Fairy-wren is a co-operative breeder that defends territories year-round in dense river-fringing vegetation. Offspring from previous breeding seasons will remain with their parents and help raise subsequent broods. They spend their days flitting around between Pandanus, river grasses and shrubs, and scratching in the leaf litter to find their prey of insects and sometimes seeds. They build loosely woven nests and have clutches of three to four eggs. All family members help feed chicks for up to 2 months after they leave the nest.

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