The endangered purple-crowned fairy-wren selflessly cares for other’s offspring.

Story Kirsty McKenzie   Photo courtesy Australian Wildlife Conservancy

The saying that it takes a village to raise a child could well be applied to the world of the endangered purple-crowned fairy-wren. Unlike most other members of the avian community, these birds fly in the face of the evolutionary principle that individuals should be selfish and care only for their own chicks. Purple-crowned fairy-wrens live in groups rather than pairs and help each other raise their young. 

The male of the species has a distinctive purple crown and a striking blue tail. Its female counterpart is less flamboyant, with a brown body, grey head and rust cheek patches. They are endemic to northern Australia and there are estimated to be just 7000 of them living along waterways across the Kimberley and just over the NT border in the Victoria River District. Uncommonly for the bird world, they are not promiscuous and usually mate for life.

This story excerpt is from Issue #149

Outback Magazine: June/July 2023