The White-winged Fairywren (Malurus leucopterus) is a striking small bird with a long tail. The breeding male are a brilliant cobalt to sapphire blue, with white wing patches and blue tail. The female and non-breeding males are pale brown-grey and the patch between the eye and bill (lores) are also pale.

The nominate race (the nominate subspecies is the one that was first described as the species itself) describes the breeding male as black (with some blue feathers) and white wings. It is the race leuconotus that describes the breeding male as cobalt-blue (although there may be occasional black) and white wings.

They are found in the inland regions of mainland Australia, especially arid semi-arid open country, often seen perched on the top of sparse bushes. The colour of the male White-winged Fairywrens on Barrow and Dirk Hartog Islands, off the north-western Australia coast, are a more inky black with white wings.

The White-winged Fairywren are primarily insectivorous, whose diet include beetles, moths, caterpillars, praying mantises, and spiders. They usually feed on small insects, although the larger insects are typically fed to nestlings by the female and helpers. Both adults and juveniles forage in low vegetation, along shrubland floor, and supplement their diets with seeds and fruits of saltbush, goosefoot and new samphire shoots.

They build a dome nest low in the shrub or grass. The nest is constructed from grasses, plant stems and spider webs.

As the sun was setting at Kunoth Bore, the darkening light made the blue plumage of the male White-winged Fairywren appear almost black.

Images © Dorothy L

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Maluridae
  • Genus: Malurus
  • Species: M. leucopterus
  • Binomial name: Malurus leucopterus
  • Subspecies:
    • M. l. leucopterus
    • M. l. edouardi
    • M. l. leuconotus