Native to Australia, the Purple-backed Fairywren (Malurus assimilis) has the largest range of all the fairywrens, found across nearly the whole continent. Their range overlaps extensively with other fairywren species.

Purple-backed Fairywren (Malurus assimilis)
Purple-backed Fairywren (Malurus assimilis), Central Australia, NT

There are four recognised subspecies of this extremely vocal and gregarious species:

  • M. a. assimilis (widespread, especially across the interior)
  • M. a. bernieri (found on Bernier Island & Dirk Hartog Island, WA)
  • M. a. rogersi (found in the Kimberly Range)
  • M. a. dulcis (in the Arnhem Land region)

Like all members of the species, it exhibits sexual dimorphism (where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexes). The breeding male is brightly coloured, with chestnut coloured shoulders, azure crown and ear coverts. The females, non-breeding males and juveniles have predominantly grey-brown plumage, although two of the subspecies, the females have mainly blue-grey plumage. In some populations of females, they have been seen with bluish upperparts.

The Purple-backed Fairywren are often seen foraging in scrub habitat (scrubland with plenty of vegetation that provide dense cover), or in canopies of low tree. They also nest in the same habitat, although sometimes prickly shrubs

Images © Dorothy L

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Maluridae
  • Genus: Malurus
  • Species: M. assimils
  • Binomial name: Malurus assimils

Footnote & References

  1. Meet the Fiarywrens, Fairywren Project,
  2. A guide to Australia’s fairy-wrens, Australian Geographic,
  3. Purple-backed fairywren, (last visited Aug. 22, 2021).