Great Birding Moments # 30 Superb Blue Wren

Superb Blue Wren (male)

Superb Blue Wren (male)

On a recent picnic in the Newland Head Conservation Park near Victor Harbor we had the delight of a family of Superb Blue Wrens hopping around on the gravel near our feet. There seemed to be about six or seven females and non-coloured males accompanied by one male in full breeding plumage.

As the light catches the iridescent colours on the male it is always a Great Birding Moment. The brilliant colour is almost enough to make one gasp in amazement. The fact that they are happy to feed on the ground only a few metres away is an added bonus.

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25 Responses to “Great Birding Moments # 30 Superb Blue Wren”

  1. Snail says:

    Good shot! They are spectacular little birds. I hear them a lot and see them frequently, but they’re not keen on hanging around for photos.

  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks Snail, it is always a delight to see and hear this species. In order to get good shots of them it pays to hang out in picnic grounds where they have come to associate people with food. Even then – you have to have a quick trigger finger. On this occasion I managed one shot of a female (or non-coloured male) in mid hop. It was a very blurred photo.

  3. Tricia says:

    Trevor, here is my Superb Fairy-Wren Story…
    When my family moved into our new house in Feb 2005 I noticed Fairy Wrens almost immediately to my delight. When I was trying to tempt them into my garden by planting natives all around they somewhat frustratingly preferred my neighbour’s building site weeds.

    Anyway in Sept 2006 we finally could afford a week’s holiday in Lorne. When we returned I noticed a female building a nest just outside our laundry window in a capensis bush. I gave orders to stay away from this area as much as possible and started a log on the pair’s activities.

    When I noticed she was in the nest, the nest being extremely difficult to spot, I counted the days till I observed both parents bringing food to the nest. Eight days later I saw the ugly little baby clamber through the capensis. I had a clear view of the little chap and at first thought, surely that isn’t their baby? It was one of the most exciting moments of my life (is that saying something about my life?).

    My family had the pleasure of following the exploits of this hardy healthy little chick. Special moments include the baby snuggling into Dad or Mum while they sat on the fence. The parents freaking out as the baby insisted on perching high up on the neighbour’s roof, a good spot for a passing hawk etc to spot it. Finding caterpillars in the hardenbergia, disabling them and letting the parents find them to feed baby.

    Sadly on another occasion when they built a nest in a different spot something got to the nest and took the egg. I noticed the male sitting on the fence one morning very still which is strange for a wren. When I discreetly investigated the nesting site, in amongst a hardenbergia on a fence, I discovered the tragedy. It was as if he was in mourning. The little jenny was OK luckilly.

    Unfortunately I haven’t seen wren’s in my yard for over a year, hopefully we will get the odd siting again this summer. They aren’t too far away on the banks of the local creek. I envy the folks who live over there.

  4. Trevor says:

    We are sad that we don’t have wrens in our garden. We have to walk about ten minutes up the road to some natural mallee scrub to see some. On the odd occasion a mother has found its way here trailing up a wandering little one, but they don’t hang around. The neighbour’s cats would be a concern if they did move here.

    We are fortunate in having both the Superb Blue and the Varietgated Fairy wrens in this district, with the Splendid only a half hour drive away.

    Thanks again for sharing your stories. You should start a blog like mine.

  5. Tricia says:

    Hi Trevor

    We have a nesting pair back in our garden at last. I have the feeling they are a young pair. Jenny has made her nest in a low but dense hebe, right next to the fence where the neighbour’s cat is. When the wrens weren’t around I had a peep inside and could see 1 egg. However the pair didn’t seem to return to the nest that night. The next morning I put my finger in and touched the egg which felt cold. Later I saw the wrens return to the nest, I thought they had abandoned it. How long can a bird leave the nest before the egg dies? We have had unseasonally cold weather here in Melbourne. What do you think? Anyway we are trying to keep away from the nest, can’t say the same for that bloody cat though! By the way, Happy Birdday!

  6. Trevor says:

    Hi again Tricia. That is good news indeed.

    It is my understanding that eggs can be left for some time without the adult sitting on them. However, when all of the eggs in the clutch have been laid, the birds will sit on them more or less non-stop, with both adults taking turns to incubate the eggs. That is why all the eggs will hatch in a very short time span – even if the eggs have been laid over, say three or four days.

    In some species only the male will sit on the eggs eg emus. In many species it is only the female that hatches the eggs eg magpies.

    Thanks for the birdday greetings. I had a great day with family.

  7. Tricia says:

    Hi Trevor,

    I guess they know sooner or later that the egg won’t hatch. Do you think she will lay another egg, build another nest? I could have pointed out much better places for her to build her nest. I have left out nest building material for her, and it always disappears. Lovely having them back in our garden, that is why the garden was designed and planted around natives, it is paying off!

  8. Trevor says:

    I’ve just checked my reference books. One can be fairly certain that the birds will nest again, whether that is after predation, the nest being destroyed or any other reason for an unsuccessful breeding attempt. Research has shown that Superb Blue Wrens often have 4-6 clutches in one season and can have up to eight breeding attempts. I was amazed at that last figure.

  9. Tricia says:

    Thanks Trevor for that info. I must get myself some reference books too. I will keep you posted what happens with our fairy wrens, her nest is just outside our large dining room window, so I often sit at the table watching her nest with the venetian tilted to obscure me somewhat. Thanks again for the valuable information.


  10. Trevor says:

    My pleasure Tricia. Enjoy the view.

  11. Tricia says:

    Hi Trevor, Well it is Sunday, at least 17 days after the egg was laid, Jenny is still on the nest but no sign of either pair bringing food to it. I bought some cat deterrent to scatter around the hebe bush to try to keep the neighbour’s cat away. I still feel the wrens are an immature pair, the male is fairly small. Anyway, we shall see.
    I have been putting fresh water in the bird bath everyday and finally had the joy of watching the little male have a bath, not just one bath but several, he seemed to be having a great time!

  12. Trevor says:

    Hi again Tricia. When the eggs hatch it will be quite obvious – the adults will be kept busy feeding the little ones every few minutes – then after a few days the begging will start (though Wrens are quiet compared to magpies babies, for example). They should get rid of few flies and mozzies in your garden!

    It is interesting that you say you think they an immature pair – or rather, you imply that they are inexperienced. If the male is fully mature he will display the full adult male colours during breeding season.

    Are there any uncoloured males around? They can look almost like the female in her plain colours. These are non-dominant non breeding males or juveniles that will assist with nest building and feeding the young. It becomes a family event. If there are none around, this could be a new pair establishing a new territory.

    It’s really great that they’ve discovered your bird bath. This will encourage them to hang around. We get a great deal of enjoyment from our bird baths. (It also allows me to get some great photos!!!)

  13. Tricia says:

    G’day Trevor,

    In answer to your question, no there aren’t any other males around, just the pair. Egg still in the nest, jenny still going into the nest but I noticed that they were very “lovey-dovey” today. I think they must know that the egg isn’t going to hatch. I wonder what they will do now, push the old egg out? Make a new nest? Guess I’ll have to wait and see. In the mean time I am really enjoying them flying around my small garden.

  14. Mark says:

    I just want to share with you that i have a pair of wrens nesting in the garden. This is their second nesting so far. Mum has built her nest in my Eremophila Nivea. For the past month she has had the two young from her last nesting with her, but this morning they are nowhere to be seen and she is sitting on the nest. I don’t think she was happy to see me,even though she is used to me being there.Dad dropped by a couple of times and then took off again. What is interesting is that he disappeared after the last chicks were born and has returned. I believe the original male may have been killed as i often have to slow the car down to avoid running them over whilst they argue in the middle of the road.

  15. Trevor says:

    Hi there Mark, welcome to my blog about Australian birds. I am envious – to have wrens nesting in your garden must be a great delight.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  16. Marilyn says:

    Today I discovered I had made a huge mistake. I had left a wreath on the wall of my front porch..It was made of cedar and had been there since Christmas. I noticed three robins on it about three weeks ago and thought they were cute. I never saw them on it again. Two days ago I decided that I needed to take the wreath down as it was brown and need to be thrown away. I took it down..laid it on my porch floor. I thought I’ll throw it in the trash soon. Today was the day that I picked the wreath up to take it away. As I lifted it up, to my dismay, I saw a little nest tucked inside it..barely visible. Inside it were some little blue eggs. They were cold..A few of the eggs had even rolled out on the porch floor..I took out the nest..didn’t touch the eggs inside the nest..went out to a nearby pine and placed it in a limb on that tree. I haven’t seen any signs of the little bird in two days. I cried and cried because I knew that it was too late..I am sooo sorry that this happened. My question is..Will this little bird lay more eggs in a new nest that she will make in another tree? Is she sad about what happened? Will she go on and have another family soon?

  17. Tricia says:

    Hi Marilyn

    Don’t despair, they will nest again. I know how you feel though. I had a pair of fairy wrens nesting in a low hebe bush in my garden. Something raided the nest, not sure if it was a cat or large bird, and I am certain the little jenny wren was killed. The little blue male sat on the fence dejectedly (or so it seemed to me) for about a week before he flew away. The sad thing was that I’m sure the egg she was sitting on wasn’t viable as it should have hatched days before she disappeared. I was depressed for days, silly hey, but it truly upset me.
    You have a kind heart, I can see that from your post, if you want to help your robins, provide them with a bird bath and change the water every 2nd day like I do. They will reward you for it.
    Kind Regards…….

  18. Lili Loewenstein says:

    Hallo Trevor,
    thank you for great and lovely photos, I remember wonderful holiday at kangaroo island,
    years ago, now I can see, these superb Australian birds, and follow you on twitter. with my
    best regards from Germany (Black Forest)
    Lili Loewenstein

  19. Trevor says:

    Thank you for your kind words Lili.

  20. Kathy says:

    We just discovered that we have a wren nest in a very old bird house that sits on our front porch where there is constant foot traffic. I saw little sticks poking out of the opening and when I looked inside, the nesting wren flew out, (we were equally startled), and I could see three tiny eggs. The brown wren returned to the nest about 3-4 hours later and has been there since, (I think). Being concerned about the length of time the nest was unattended, I began research on wrens and found your site. After reading your comments, I feel fairly confident that all is well. Thank you so much for posting this website. I’ve forbidden that my 8 yr old be told, lest he constantly be looking inside and the nest be entirely abandoned! I live in southwest Florida, America, and while our wrens are not brilliantly colored they are still very cute. It is fun and interesting to see and experience the wonder of nature and looking forward to seeing the precious little ones to emerge.

  21. Trevor says:

    Hi there Kathy,

    Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. Sorry I’ve taken so long to respond.

    Most Australians love our very colourful wrens. I’ve yet to come birding in your part of the world, but from what my son says it is a must when we come to America. He was there several years ago and really enjoyed the visit.

  22. Turyza says:

    Hi all, I am a newbie to this site… actually I stumbled across it, looking for info on the nesting practices of the little Blue Wren. Our cat captured a baby, toyed with it for awhile, before we realized it had it. We rescued it and my grandkids kept it in a little container overnight, then they decided to put it out on the lawn to see what happens. Well, would you believe the parents came to it, then they kept flying to the fence, as if to encourage it to come over to it. The baby flopped around and finally got to go under the fence to the underbrush on the other side, where the parents flew down to be with it and started to feed it. We all heaved a great sigh of relief to see that, as we thought they wouldn’t come near it if it had been handled by us.
    We couldn’t find a nest anywhere, still don’t know where it is… we wanted to put the little one back inside it if we’ve found out where it was, but no… so we can only hope they will continue to come to it in the undergrowth and feed it there, till it gets stronger to fly. It has a lot of it’s baby feathers, but no tail feathers yet.
    Hope it makes it before the cats discover it again.
    Kind regards, Turyza

  23. Elaine Brown says:

    We’ve got a pair of Blue Wrens nesting in a mesh bicycle basket right next to our front door under the carport at Newhaven (Phillip Island) under/beside the upturned bike helmet left in the basket by one of my daughters, it’s about 4 weeks since the bicycle was ridden, a lot of walking being done by the ‘inconvenienced’ teenager! Smart birds have (we hope) outsmarted a neighbour’s wandering ginger cat. I’m trying to arrange a traffic accident with the cat….

  24. Trevor says:

    Hi Turyza,

    Thanks for sharing your delightful story. Hope the little bird is thriving.

  25. Trevor says:

    Hi Elaine,

    Thanks for sharing your delightful story. It made me laugh.

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