vegetation requirements of Superb Fairy-wren

Subject: vegetation requirements of Superb Fairy-wren
From: Andrew Taylor <>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 09:30:12 +1100
Appended is the abstract of just-published Emu paper looking at habitats
used by Superb Fairy-wrens in and near suburban Wollongong.

Interesting as it give some insight as to possible reasons why Superb
Fairy-wrens are almost absent from large parts of the attractive and
expensive suburbs on Sydney's north shore but are fairly common through
Sydney's densely populated inner west right into the CBD.  I don't know
if they are still there, but last year there were wrens near King Street
Wharf in the city, not far from the stern of the ship in the aerial
image here:,151.201937&spn=0.003256,0.004495&t=h&z=18
Extremely disturbed habitat but Superb Fairy-wrens can exploit it
perhaps due to adaptions to exploit natural disturbance (fire, storm,
flood) and edge effects - but they have trouble exploiting greener
suburbs to the north.


The vegetation requirements of Superb Fairy-wrens (Malurus cyaneus)
in non-urban edge and urbanised habitats

Holly Parsons A , C , Kristine French A and Richard E. Major B

A Institute for Conservation Biology and Law, School of Biological
Sciences, University of Wollongong, Northfields Ave, Wollongong, NSW
2520, Australia.
B Terrestrial Ecology, Australian Museum, 6 College St, Sydney, NSW 2010, 
C Corresponding author. Email: 


Urbanisation has created an environment with a broad spectrum of habitats
of differing quality for birds. Understanding habitat characteristics is
necessary for effective conservation of species in urban environments. We
investigated the vegetation requirements of a small, shrub-nesting,
Australian bird, the Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus), and the
relative quality of urban habitats in the Illawarra region of New South
Wales. Vegetation was assessed in three different habitats: suburban
sites within Superb Fairy-wren territories (n = 20 sites), suburban sites
where Fairy-wrens were absent (n = 20), and rural-woodland edge in which
Fairy-wrens were present (n = 17). This third habitat represents a habitat
assumed to be the best possible habitat for this species within the
landscape. We analysed structure and floristics of the vegetation. The
three habitats were significantly different from each other both in
vegetation structure and floristic composition. While there was some
variability in habitat selection in suburban areas, Superb Fairy-wrens
were largely restricted to areas that have a dense layer of native shrubs
surrounding grassy areas. They were absent from suburban sites where there
were either few shrubs in total or sites with exotic shrubs, regardless of
abundance. It was predicted that non-suburban habitats (habitat located
on the rural-remnant edge) would be of a higher quality than suburban
habitats (habitat within residential housing) owing to a prevalence of
native vegetation. However, these sites were dominated by a single exotic
species, Lantana (Lantana camara). Despite this plant replacing native
vegetation, it was an important habitat feature. Either this plant or
native shrubs must be available for this species to colonise a site.

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