Fairy-wrens (genus Malurus) are small songbirds found in all Australian states and territories. Of the ten species found in Australia, most (nine species) are found only here, and one is found in both Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Australian Fairy-wrens are omnivores and range in size between around 11.5 and 15 centimetres. All fairy-wrens begin their lives in dullish brown or light blue plumage, with males of each species ultimately transforming into a dazzling plumage tinged with blues, purples and orangey-reds, though some not until their third breeding season – a process known as plumage maturation. As with many birds, it is predominantly males that are brightly coloured, in order to attract females for breeding.
Fairy-wrens have complex social structures and occupy diverse habitats and ranges. These diverse habitats are thought to explain the differences in plumage maturation within and across species and may also influence the variation in social group structure and size. As well as being beautiful, fairy-wrens are intelligent, learning the alarm calls of other birds in order to flee from predators.
This stamp issue presents photographs of four fairy-wren species, showcasing different aspects and behaviours. A graphic rendition of a preferred plant is featured in the stamp backgrounds.
- Issue date
- 21 February 2023
- Issue withdrawal date
- 1 September 2023
- $1.20 x 4
- Stamp design
- Jo Muré, Australia Post Design Studio
- Product design
- Jo Muré, Australia Post Design Studio
- Paper: gummed
- Tullis Russell 104gsm Red Phos.
- Paper: self-adhesive
- Tullis Russell Red Phos PSA P55
- RA Printing
- Printing process
- Offset lithography
- Stamp size (mm)
- 37.5 x 26
- Minisheet size (mm)
- 135 x 80
- 13.86 x 14.6
- Sheet layout
- Module of 50
- FDI Postmark
- Port Fairy VIC 3284
- FDI withdrawal date
- 22 March 2023
$1.20 Lovely Fairy-wren
The Lovely Fairy-wren (Malurus amabilis) is one of several species of chestnut-winged fairy-wren, distinguishable by its bright blue and white females (most females are a dullish brown). Compared to other chestnut-winged varieties, its cheeks are considered rounder and the white on its tail tips more prominent. Breeding males are unique among Australian fairy-wrens because all males retain their bright plumage throughout the year. A male and female pair is featured on the stamp.
While common, the Lovely Fairy-wren is restricted to the coast of the Cape York Peninsula and the Wet Tropics, Queensland, where is prefers subtropical or tropical dry forests and moist lowland forests, including broadleaf thickets and shrubland. Preferred vegetation includes the climbing fern Lygodium reticulatum, which is alluded to on the stamp. Lovely Fairy-wrens are the most arboreal of Australian fairy-wrens and can be found in rainforest canopies at 20 metres high.
The stamp photograph is by Clinton Nash.
$1.20 Superb Fairy-wren
The Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) is found in open eucalypt woodland forests throughout south-eastern Australia – from south-eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Victoria to the southern Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, as well as in Tasmania, King Island, Flinders Island and Kangaroo Island. The Superb Fairy-wren also frequent parks and gardens; it is the only species of fairy-wren to have successfully adapted to suburban environments, where it is attracted to dense shrubs and small trees such as paperbarks and tea trees (the latter depicted graphically on the stamp).
Known colloquially as the Blue Wren, it was voted “Australia’s favourite bird” in a 2021 poll run by Guardian Australia and Birdlife Australia and was one of the first Australian birds to be officially described (Ellis, 1782). The bright male plumage of the Superb Fairy-wren, which comes into effect in time for breeding season, includes an iridescent sky-blue cap. In some males, this bright plumage can last for most of the year.
The stamp photograph is by Greg Wyncoll/Shutterstock.com.
$1.20 Red-backed Fairy-wren
The Red-backed Fairy-wren (Malurus melanocephalus), the smallest of the Australian fairy-wrens at around 11.5 centimetres, is common throughout northern and eastern Australia (New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia). It is found within a wide variety of tall grassy habitats, especially sub-tropical tussock grasslands, or open woodlands and forests with thick grassy groundcover, including Blady Grass (Imperata cylindrica), which has been graphically presented on the stamp.
During breeding season, the jet-black male of the species, with bright red patches on their shoulders and back, are often seen pursuing females across grassy plains, with their head and neck feathers standing to attention. Both males and females are highly promiscuous, though temptation is thought to be tempered somewhat when breeding pairs sing a duet.
The stamp photograph is by Trent Townsend/Shutterstock.com.
$1.20 Purple-crowned Fairy-wren
The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (Malurus coronatus), named for its brilliant-purple crown, establishes territories in exclusively riparian habitat – dense vines, grasses, trees and shrubs (such as Pandanus), which are situated land alongside creeks, streams, gullies, rivers and wetlands. It is one of the largest fairy-wren species, at around 14.5 to 15 centimetres. While considered fairly shy, Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens are known to sing loudly while defending their territory.
Populations of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren are localised and in decline: Kimberley region sub-species M. c. coronatus is listed as endangered in Western Australia, and subspecies M. c. macgillivrayi, near the Gulf of Carpentaria, is considered threatened under Northern Territory legislation. Threats include habitat loss from fires, feral herbivores, invasive weeds and livestock grazing.
The stamp photograph is by Alwyn Simple.