Lovely Fairywren

blue-capped wren
Lovely Fairywren

This gorgeous little bird is a male Lovely Fairywren, Malurus amabilis, in breeding plumage. As in many related species, the juveniles and females are always clad in discreet browns and greys. The males, however, are resplendent in blues and blacks with chestnut or white highlights, except when they moult into their dull “eclipse” plumage after the breeding season.

The Lovely Fairywren is very similar to the Variegated Wren, Malurus assimilis, but has a much smaller range: just around the coast of Cape York, as compared to almost the whole of Australia excepting the far North and far South. The species name, “amabilis”, means “loveable” or “amiable” as well as “lovely” but when I encountered him this gentleman was in no mood to earn the name. Shrieking fury was more his style, as he tried desperately to frighten an equally strong-willed rival away from his territory.

And how could the rival be other than equally strong-willed, since his rival was himself?

It all started when he caught sight of his own reflection in the side window of my car:

bird attacking reflection
Attack!
bird on rear-vision mirror
What? Still there?
Attack!
Attack!
"You horrible, pig-headed ball of fluff!"
“You pig-headed ball of fluff!”

He attacked his reflection time after time, in an uncontrollable rage. Nothing could stop him. By this time I had grabbed my camera and taken a few shots, of course, and then I tried to drive him away so that he wouldn’t end up damaging himself; but when I approached one side of the car too closely, he only flipped around to the other side and took up the battle where he left off.  Things only got worse when he caught sight of the clearer reflection in the rear-vision mirror:

Beak-to-beak with the enemy
Beak-to-beak with the enemy
wren on mirror
Has he gone yet?

My feelings were mixed – delight at his beauty, excitement at the chance of a good photo, admiration for his indomitable courage, even a little amusement at the sheer futility of his efforts – but sympathy for his very real distress predominated. In the end I tied a shopping bag over each of the mirrors and hoped the changing angle of the sun would soon weaken the window reflections enough to let him think he had won.

This all happened at my camp site at Broadwater a week ago, and was one of the closest of my many encounters with birds there; my previous post features photos of other species.

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