views updated


The wren-warblers or Australian warblers are 83 species of birds that constitute the family Maluridae. These are nonmigratory birds, occurring in New Guinea, Australia , New Zealand, and nearby islands. Their usual habitat is forests , shrublands, and heaths.

Wren-warblers are small birds, with a body length of 3.9-7.9 in (10 to 20 cm), including the long, cocked tail that many species have. Their wings are short and rounded, and the bill is small and weak. The males of most species are brightly colored in contrasting patterns of blue, red, brown, black, or white. Other species, however, are more drab in coloration, and the sexes do not differ.

Wren-warblers are gregarious, and they hunt in small flocks for their prey of insects and other small invertebrates in canopy foliage. Some species also eat seeds .

Wren-warblers are loosely territorial during their breeding season. The males of most species are good singers, and they defend their individual territories in this way. However, the fairy wrens (Malurus spp.) often breed in a social group, in which one male is dominant, and is the most handsomely colored. One or more other males assist with his breeding effort, and if anything happens to the dominant individual, another will quickly moult to a brighter plumage and assume the central role.

The nest of wren-warblers is a dome-shaped structure with a side entrance. The clutch size is two to five eggs, which are incubated by the female. Both sexes rear the young birds.

The fairy wrens (Malurus spp.) are especially lovely. The variegated wren (Malurus lamberti) occurs in southeastern Australia, and has a sky blue cap and tail, a violet throat, and chestnut-and-black wings. The superb blue wren (M. cyaneus) has a similar range, and a violet throat and tail, light blue cap and face, and a brown back.

The emu wren (Stipiturus malachurus) breeds in southern Australia and Tasmania. This species has a chestnut cap, a bright blue throat, and a light brown body.

Bill Freedman