Tall Tales: The Fairies and the Emu
In Denmark there is no escaping the “Blue Wren”, not only the Emblem of Denmark, but also adorning the logos of many businesses and organisations in Denmark, including “The Bulletin”.
But the emblems are pale in comparison to the dazzling blue of the male Splendid Fairy-wren when in full breeding plumage. It has remarkable control of its feathers, able to make its cheek feathers protrude, smooth its crown feathers and those of the mantle (upper back). It is usually seen in family groups with several females and non-breeding males, their blue tails often held vertical like semaphore flags and regular contact calls keeping them together.
The other Fairy-wren we frequently see in Denmark is the Red-winged Fairy-wren; again the male is a striking bird with a pale electric–blue cap and cheeks, midnight blue breast and an orange-brown (“red”) upper, inner wing (scapulars). They are indigenous to Southwestern Australia, found within about 50km of the coast between Moore River, north of Perth and Waychinicup in the east.
The bright breeding plumage of both the male Splendid and Red-winged Fairy-wrens requires a large amount of energy to produce and makes the bird highly visible to predators. Hence both species moult after the breeding season into similar plumage to the females of their respective species. The Splendid does however retain some blue on its wing.
The “cousin” of the Fairy-wrens, the Southern Emu-wren is smaller, at just 8g (compared to 10g for a Fairy-wren), half the weight of a 50c coin, a real featherweight! They are elusive birds found in the coastal heath and dunes at Ocean Beach and Wilson Head, including Lights Beach. The “Emu” name comes from its long,” filamented” tail consisting of only six feathers. Their contact call is a little louder than a cricket, it is always worth waiting if this is heard in suitable habitat as the reward could be the sight of a beautiful, tiny, golden brown bird with a sky-blue bib, streaked back and an impossibly long tail!