BT: Australian Red-backed Fairy Wren And How I Became A Birder

BT: Australian Red-backed Fairy Wren

Back in the spring of 2006 I decided I didn’t want to study abroad to Europe like everyone else and instead looked for something more…adventurous.

I found out about a program affiliated with my college called The School for Field Studies.  I was so excited about something environment based and couldn’t wait to get a look at the different places I could go and study.  I had so many places to choose from including Kenya, Turks and Caicos, Costa Rica, and Baja, but the one that caught my eye, and pretty much brought me to where I am today with my LIFE, was Australia.

It was not an easy adjustment to say the least, but I loved it.  I was in a place I knew I would love and with people who had a like mind concerning the environment.

Now, I have not always been a birder.  I used to want to be a marine biologist, obsessed with otters and dolphins, and actually declared my major before I even started college.  But it was as soon as I learned I had to take O Chem and Physics that I decided to switch to a broader major of Environmental Studies where I could learn about the earth.  My first dabbling with birds came when I took a general ecology class and had to learn about the local flora and fauna.  I spent hours in the chapparel canyon adjacent to my college and I was so excited when I id’d my first bird: the endangered California Gnatcatcher.

But my real love for birding arrived when I was forced to go on birding trips in Australia.  I moaned and groaned through the first few, when I was not very happy about getting up before 5 am to walk around in the rainforest.  But after a few sessions and learning more about my classmates love for birds, I was addicted.

(Yes Mags, I have you to thank for my birding obsession!!!)

I soon became excited to wake up naturally to the call of hundreds of birds, wandering around in the rain and blazing sun to hunt down a new species.  I went on a hike with a friend one day where I saw such a beautiful bird that I could not stop staring:

(Adult male)


This, is the Red-backed Fairy Wren.  I could not believe my eyes when I saw that red.  Isn’t it gorgeous!?  These wrens are fairly small, around 4 1/2 inches long, in which their tail is 2 1/2 inches of that total length.  This fairy wren, like the other fairy wrens, has sexual dimorphism, in which the male displays a striking amount of color, versus the female who is a dull brown color.

(Female and Male, adults)


They are fairly simple birds, eating mostly insects and living in grassland areas.  They are well known for the way they stick up their tails too.  But the little fact that I think is the cutest is that during courtship, the male will pick red flower petals to display to the female in attempts to attract her.  How cute is that; it’s like getting roses on a first date!  Ahhhh…



At the time when I was in the country I wasn’t on a great quest to find as many bird species as I could, but after studying so many in the states for the past few years, I can’t wait to get back there and find the one fairy wren that I really want to see:

(Female and Male Superb Fairy Wren)


I would love love love to see a Superb Fairy Wren.  I can’t get over the vibrant blue in the males and I mean, it’s just a cute little bird!

Hope you enjoyed this weeks Birding Thursday.  I’ve got a list going on of suggestions from readers of birds they want to hear about including owls, finches, and bee eaters. Any other suggestions!?

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8 Responses to BT: Australian Red-backed Fairy Wren And How I Became A Birder

  1. That is just adorable. Guys should take note from these birds. The last one, was that the same one that did the dancing on Planet Earth? Of all those movies, watching those dancing birds trying to pick up chicks (er, lady birds?) is my favorite part!

    • Melissa says:

      The Superb Fairywren isn’t the one in planet earth but I believe it’s the bird of paradise doing the dance. There is also the Riflebird doing a dance too I believe. They’re so cool!

      And yes, the boys should take a hint from the birds. hehe!

    • hahaha I totally didn’t see Emilys comment (probably because I opened the tab a couple hours before I commented!!) But yes, you are totally right!

  2. I love birding Thursday! Also, have you seen Planet Earth? They have some AMAZING birds on there. :)

    I would like to hear about swans and ostrichs. Are those actually birds?

    • Melissa says:

      Oh, you bet I have watched Planet Earth, I OWN IT! I watch the mating dances of the birds all the time…I’m such a nerd.

      And yes, those are birds. :) I will put them on my list to do a BT feature on!

  3. Please tell me you own the BBC version. I feel so much smarter listening to David Attenborough… and they do these “behind the scenes” after each one, showing how they got a certain shot. The one on birds was really interesting!

  4. Amy says:

    You are welcome to come back anytime you want Melissa! We would be lucky to have you birding on our shores again :)
    These red backed fairy wrens are gorgeous! I’ve never seen one like them.
    I have however seen several wrens on multiple mornings that look like the superb fairy wren. They play and dance around in the bushes out the front of our house! I’ll have to try and take some photos for you to ID maybe?

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