Species profile

Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

Range and abundance

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is a specialist of dense riparian vegetation in northern Australia. It occurs as two races. The western race 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.

Description

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is a small (16.5 cm) energetic bird. Plumage varies between the sexes. Males have a crown of bright purple surrounded by black, whereas females have brown 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.

Ecology

The purple-crowned Fairy-wren is a co-operative breeder that defends territories 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.

Threats

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.


What is AWC doing?

AWC is protecting riparian vegetation on its Mornington-Marion Downs, and Pungalina-Seven Emu sanctuaries 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.

Did you know:

Out of the nine Fairy-wrens in Australia, Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens are the only one that has not been found to be highly promiscuous. Unlike other Fairy-wrens, Purple-crowns are monogamous and do not seek matings outside their pair.