Birdata Species in Focus: Superb Fairy-wrens

Our Birds in Backyards surveys don’t only ask about what birds are visiting your garden, but what your garden is like. We’ve been analysing your Birds in Backyards survey contributions in Birdata to look at the relationship between different types of gardens, and what bird species are present.

Over the coming months, we will walk through the results of this analysis. Here are some of our findings for one of Australia’s favourite little birds, the Superb Fairy-wren.

A recently released research paper which includes these Birds in Backyards surveys has shown that Superb Fairy-wren populations have been trending down in Melbourne and Sydney, but some slight increases are being shown in Brisbane. Many small native birds have been show to be declining in urban areas for two main reasons. Firstly, our urban landscapes are changing and offering less suitable habitat for small species. Secondly, larger, more dominant urban species such as Noisy Miners are well adapted to urban environments and outcompete small birds

In the Birds in Backyards surveys Superb Fairy-wrens were more likely to be found in bush blocks and more regional spaces rather than urban gardens. That’s not something that can be easily changed, but what features of urban gardens were likely to attract Superb Fairy-wrens?

Superb Fairy-wrens need dense vegetation cover. They were statistically less likely to be found at sites with little to no small plants and with less than 25% shrub cover. Adding these low and dense plantings to your garden will create structured habitat for Superb Fairy-wrens. They were also less likely to be found in sites that never provided water, or did so very infrequently, so get a bird bath in your garden. Something low to the ground and close by that dense vegetation is likely to be used by these birds that stick low and close to shrubs.

Tree cover was not a major factor for fairy-wren presence, but is important for other species! Similarly, we did not find the presence of pets or supplementary feeding to alter the presence of Superb Fairy-wrens. They are territorial though, so need a tight web of shrubs across gardens and public spaces to create great habitat for them. Get your neighbours involved and plant up the block for them.

Other bird species do play a role too. Superb Fairy-wrens were less likely to be found in sites where Noisy Miners were present. Noisy Miners are native honeyeaters reknown for their aggression. Previous research, as well as the analysis done here, show that where you have Noisy Miners, you are less likely to have small birds. They prefer open spaces with little understory so by boosting the vegetation cover, particularly small plants and shrubs in your garden you’ll be helping small birds like Superb Fairy-wrens and at the same time reducing the amount of habitat that’s only suitable for bully species like Noisy Miners. As tempting as it is, steer clear of lots of nectar rich native plants like big Grevilleas and Bottlebrush that provide large amounts of nectar for them all year round.


Help us keep track of how our urban birds are faring and what we can do to create great spaces for them -take part in our Birds in Backyards surveys. Instructions are here.

And Melbourians, you can keep an eye on an extra special population of Superb Fairy-wrens. Check out the Superb City Wrens project for more info.

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