Red-backed Fairy-wren

Did you know?

This is the smallest of the Fairy-wrens and is sometimes known as the Elfin Wren.

The call is a weak high-pitched reeling song, soft and unobstrusive, often only heard from quite close.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
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Breeding season: 
August to January
Clutch Size: 
12 days
13 days
Nestling Period: 
11 days
12 days
Conservation Status
Associated Plants
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

This is the smallest of the fairy-wrens, with the male in breeding plumage inmistakable; glossy black with a scarlet saddle, black bill and shortish tail with a squared tip. Adult non-breeding males and immature birds are very similar to the females which are plain warm-brown with a pinkish-brown bill, though males have a black bill. The tail of the females is longer and more pointed. These wrens have no blue in their plumage at all. They are usually in small family groups with mainly brownish birds. 

Similar species: 

The breeding male is unmistakable. Eclipse (non-breeding) males and females are a warm brown with pale lores and eye-ring and are smaller than the similar Superb Fairy-wren M. cyaneus, which have orange-red lores. The Variegated Fairy-wren is also bigger with a longer tail. These wrens rarely overlap with the similar White-winged Fairy-wren M leucopterus.

Where does it live?

Red-backed Wrens are endemic (found only there) to north and east Australia.


They are found in dense understorey dominated by tall grasses in tropical and sub-tropical areas.

Seasonal movements: 

Resident and sedentary, and may move locally in the non-breeding season.

What does it do?

Red-backed Wrens feed on small insects and arthropods, feeding in small groups among tall grasses and shrubs, sometimes in trees.


Little is known about their breeding habits. The small dome-shaped nest is well-hidden and placed close to the ground, often in grass tussocks. The nest is made of grasses, bark strips and spiders web, lined with fine grasses and feathers. The eggs are white, splotched and spotted with red-brown marks. The female mainly incubates and broods the young. Both parents feed the nestlings, sometimes helped by others in the group, and remove the faecal sacs.  

Living with us

Farming and clearing of habitat may have extended the area of suitable habitat.

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