Re: birding-aus Digest, Vol 31, Issue 35

Subject: Re: birding-aus Digest, Vol 31, Issue 35
From: Gordon and Pam Cain <>
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2008 22:07:32 +1100
Superb Fairy wrens need lantana in suburban fringes? Out here in Schofields (NW Sydney) they favour blackberry, and I've seen them in cypress bushes and other dense thickets. Cheers Gordon Cain Schofields, NW Sydney Message: 8 Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 16:20:02 +1100 From: Andy Burton <> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] vegetation requirements of Superb Fairy-wren To: Cc: Message-ID: <> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed" Re Superb Fairy-wrens and habitat; I was always amazed how common these birds were in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs with hardly a shrub or or lawn in sight. Underwood St, and nearby streets in busy Paddington, have terraced houses with microscopic, paved front yards, measuring only a couple of paces from the footpath to the front door and yet SF-ws can be found in the street. There is very little vegetation, perhaps a few isolated eucs. and a few, generally exotic, shrubs. The area around the bare, asphalt playgrounds of Bondi Public School often had a group of F-ws. These are not isolated instances. Most of the other small species have disappeared from these urban areas making the presence of these birds even more remarkable. Here in the leafy northern suburbs, with apparently plenty of suitable habitat, there are large areas where SF-ws are rarely sighted. By contrast, Variegated F-ws are common in the native bushland reserves of Sydney's north, a habitat where SF-ws are less frequently seen. The lack of a canopy and extensive lawns in much of the Eastern Suburbs has possibly not allowed the Noisy Miners and Currawongs to dominate the landscape (airscape???) and to drive away the Fairy-wrens, as has probably happened in much of northern Sydney. In Sydney, Superb Fairy-wrens seem to prefer altered habitat, providing they can survive attacks from larger, more aggressive species and they also favour wetlands especially those with reeds and nearby mown grass. A visit to Google Earth will show what I mean about Underwood St, Paddington or Bondi School at the end of Glasgow Avenue where it meets Gould St. Andy

>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:
>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, Australia.
>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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