Superb Fairy-wren family history

To: 'COG Chatline' <>
Subject: Superb Fairy-wren family history
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2018 03:43:31 +0000

I knew they knew a lot but this is impressive.


From: Nicki Taws [
Sent: Tuesday, 13 March, 2018 7:46 AM
To: 'COG Chatline'
Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] Superb Fairy-wren family history


Thanks to Matthew Larkin for reporting a banded Fairy-wren in Aranda.

Please keep an eye out for any others (outside ANBG).


From: Andrew Cockburn [
Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2018 10:42 AM
To: Matthew Larkin;
Cc: Helen Osmond; Andrew Cockburn
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Aranda bushland yesterday


Hi Matthew


Brilliant - that makes sense.  The bird is called uBgr (which stands for the Ultramarine anodised metal band, the large Blue plastic band, and the epoxied Green-Red band on the left leg (this one actually has two colours).  She started her life on the territory in the ANBG that contains the rockery and adjacent lawn, and the northern section of the big Acacia bed which runs between the rockery and the main Eucalypt lawn. She was part of a clutch of three that fledged on 20 November 2016. She disappeared from our census on 13 January 2017, and would have made her way over Black Mountain to the bushland.  She probably spent her first winter there in a foreign group, from which she would have gained a breeding vacancy at the start of the 2017/2018 breeding season.  Hence she is just emerging from her first breeding season.  Like most fairy-wrens, she was the product of infidelity from her mother (MrwO), who spurned her own partner (Yano), and instead mated with her neighbour who lived on the monocot bed over the road from the public toilets (RrbR).


In order to breed females need to disperse away from the territory in which they were born, but males try and inherit the family real estate.  We can trace uBgr back to the foundation of the study over 30 years ago, and his great-great-great-great-great-grandmother (BRN) was one of the first birds we ringed. She is one of our best females, and had 74 grandchildren.  One of her mates (WYB) was featured in David Attenborough’s Life of Birds.


Thereafter for uBgr we know his male ancestors, who all lived in the region of the rockery and the monocot bed.




Season born







Great (*5)-grandmum





Great (*4)-granddad





Great (*3)-granddad





Great (*2)-granddad























So thanks again – dispersal records such as this one are rare and valuable.  I have copied this e-mail to Nicki Taws, who kindly forwarded your message to me




Andrew Cockburn



From: Matthew Larkin <>
Date: Saturday, 10 March 2018 at 10:47 pm
To: Andrew Cockburn <>
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Aranda bushland yesterday


Just found I managed a photo which shows the bands - see attached - maybe the fact that I got the information almost totally wrong would explain the lack of a match! (ie, swap Left for Right!! and also, Red is under Green!!!)


Location: Southwest corner of Aranda bushland (ie South of powerlines, east of Bindubi St; west of the south trending trail, near the small creek line).  Google Earth gives co-ordinates of S 35:16'12"; E 149:04'35"


Hope that helps!



From: Andrew Cockburn <>
Sent: Saturday, 10 March 2018 7:55:59 PM
To: Matthew Larkin
Cc: Helen Osmond
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Aranda bushland yesterday


Hi Matthew

The fairy-wren you sighted was one from the long-term study we have been conducting in the Botanic Gardens since 1986.  It would have been ringed in the nest, and have dispersed to find a breeding vacancy.  Only females disperse long distances, so it is either an adult or juvenile female.  Such records are of great interest to us.  Unfortunately we do not have a bird with the precise colour ring combination you describe. This is commonly the case as the colour combinations we use are increasingly esoteric, as we have ringed almost 10,000 wrens. They are also prone to fading.   It would be very helpful to get a more accurate location for this sighting so we can try to relocate the bird (and hopefully provide you with a full story of the bird's life).  Any coordinates (e.g. map references, lat/long etc) are fine, though some people have sent us Google maps in the past.  Verbal descriptions are also helpful, as I am an Aranda resident, and know the bushland pretty well.

With best wishes

Andrew Cockburn
Research School of Biology
Australian National University
0413 637 297

On 10/3/18, 6:32 pm, "Matthew Larkin" <> wrote:

    One Rufous Fantail passing through.
    Also a juvenile Golden Whistler (obvious rufous in wing), a very quiet Sacred Kingfisher (showing the scaling on breast and the buff on wing coverts of juveniles as described in Oz Bird Guide), a Brown-headed Honeyeater and a colour banded (female or imm??) Superb Fairy-Wren (R leg red over green; L leg blue over paler blue. Lower left band narrower diameter but longer than other bands)
    Sent from my iPad

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