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Emperor Fairywren

Malurus cyanocephalus

The Emperor Fairywren, Malurus cyanocephalus, stands as the largest of its genus, a splendid bird with a striking sexual dimorphism. Males are adorned in a resplendent blue and black plumage, while females exhibit a more subdued coloration with blue and black only on their heads, the rest of their bodies cloaked in a rustic brown, and their tails marked with a distinctive black tipped with white.

Identification Tips

To identify the Emperor Fairywren, look for the male's light royal blue crown and black forehead, lores, and side of the head, transitioning to a deep turquoise-blue on the upper back. The female, on the other hand, can be recognized by her similar head pattern but with chestnut upperparts and white underparts, along with a black tail featuring white tips.


This species thrives in the subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests of New Guinea, favoring dense secondary growth at forest edges, forest openings, riversides, roadsides, and overgrown gardens.


The Emperor Fairywren is native to New Guinea, with its presence also noted on the Aru Islands. It is a bird not only of the deep forest but also of disturbed habitats, often found in gardens and parks.


Socially monogamous yet sexually promiscuous, the Emperor Fairywren is a cooperative breeder, often seen foraging in family groups. They exhibit a strong preference for foraging close to the ground, within a meter of the forest floor.

Song & Calls

The Emperor Fairywren's vocal repertoire includes a reel-like song, bookended by triple-note sets, and a "tst-tst-tst-tst" contact call. When alarmed, they emit a sharp "tschik."


Breeding habits of the Emperor Fairywren are not well-documented, but indications suggest year-round breeding activity. They construct gourd-shaped nests with side entrances, woven from ferns and leaves, and lined with moss.

Similar Species

While there are no similar species that could be easily confused with the Emperor Fairywren, it is important to note the subtle differences among its subspecies, such as the slightly lighter crown of M. c. mysorensis and the darker plumage of M. c. bonapartii.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Emperor Fairywren is predominantly composed of insects, including beetles, bugs, moths, grasshoppers, and spiders. Their foraging technique involves searching through leaves, palm fronds, and branches close to the ground.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the Emperor Fairywren as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats to its survival at this time.

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More Australasian Wrens

A photo of a Purple-backed Fairywren (Malurus assimilis) , male

Purple-backed Fairywren

Malurus assimilis
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