Behavior And Reproduction

Most members of the Australian fairy-wrens live in family groups. They are usually territorial and sedentary, do not migrate. They communicate with other group members with a wide variety of melodious calls. They keep busy foraging for food, climbing through the thick undergrowth, and hopping over open areas of ground with their tails cocked.

Most species of the family are cooperative breeders, meaning that they have help with the care of the young from the offspring of previous years. The adults studied have a high rate of survival, and breed extensively. Their nests are domed balls of woven grass with side entrances. Clutches have two to four red-spotted, white eggs. The female usually incubates the eggs for a period of ten to fourteen days. Young birds are fed for four to six weeks.

A team of scientists from Cambridge University and Bristol University, England, led by a professor from the Australian National University, reported in 2003 that superb Australian fairy-wrens have found a way to combat predatory habits of cuckoos—in this case, the Australian Horsfield's bronze-cuckoo. The cuckoo kills any host young by kicking them out of their nest, and then lays an egg that resembles the fairy-wren's egg, and so the superb Australian fairy-wren does not remove the egg. Within forty-eight hours of hatching, the cuckoo kicks out the host's chick from the nest. But the host fairy-wrens, at least approximately 40 percent of those studied, abandoned the nest two days later, and the cuckoo chick starves to death while the fairy-wrens nest again.

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