Malurus assimilis dulcis – The Sandstone Fairy-wren

This very distinctive form of the Variegated Fairy-wren is mainly associated with the sandstone country of Arnhem Land.

To the average birdwatcher, the breeding males look much like any other Variegated F/W but females, winter males and immatures are another story. They are blue, not brown.

The females in particular are quite different because they have white lores – they look more like a Lovely Fairy-wren, indeed they were once thought to be a form of that species.

However it has been shown that further south in the N.T. there are intermediates where the blue grades to brown. So they are regarded at present as a subspecies of the Variegated.

Soon I plan to visit the N.T. and hope to photograph both the white-lored dulcis females and any intermediate birds I can find.

This is a request for help. I know Variegated Fairy-wrens occur around Katherine, Pine Creek, Mataranka etc. If you have seen them there, did the females have white lores? Unfortunately most people, once they’ve seen a male, don’t bother looking at females.

In addition, does anyone know of a site close to Jabiru (say) where they occur, that doesn’t involve climbing to the top of an escarpment.

I know they are easy to find up the top at Gunlom, and also they have been seen at Edith Falls, not good for my knees these days.

Finally a word to all you keen twitchers that are paying big money to chase White-throated Grasswrens. Don’t ignore the Fairy-wrens, they will be right alongside, and make sure you see a female! A beautiful bird, they are eminently twitchable!


Graeme Chapman

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