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Red-backed Fairywren - BirdForum Opus

Photo by tcollins
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, September 2006
Malurus melanocephalus


10–12·5 cm (4-5 in). One of the smallest fairy-wrens.
The male is black with a bright red back and dusky primaries
The female is a very plain light brown, with a brown bill.


Photo © by Ken Doy
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 24 January 2021

Australia. The scarlet-backed form can be found in the eastern coastal areas from the middle of Queensland south to central New South Wales. The crimson-backed form are from northern Western Australia through the coastal areas of the Northern Territory to North Queensland.



There are 2 subspecies[1]:

  • M. m. cruentatus: Crimson-backed
  • M. m. melanocephalus: Scarlet-backed


Transitional Plumage
Photo © by Ken Doy
Australia, 28 January 2021

Tropical and sub-tropical woodlands, near water.


Displaying male
Photo by bazanbirds
Mackay, Queensland, Australia, February 2014


Their diet consists mostly of insects, particularly ants, beetles, cockroaches, caterpillars and grasshoppers.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Rowley, I. and E. Russell (2020). Red-backed Fairywren (Malurus melanocephalus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.rebfai1.01
  3. The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1