Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Malurus coronatus coronatus (Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fr) [Conservation Advice].
 
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan not required, included on the Not Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory-Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western subspecies) Malurus coronatus coronatus (Ward, S. & J. Woinarski, 2012a) [Information Sheet].
State Listing Status
NT: Listed as Vulnerable (Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000 (Northern Territory): 2012 list)
WA: Listed as Endangered (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Endangered (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Malurus coronatus coronatus [64442]
Family Maluridae:Passeriformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Gould, 1858
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Malurus coronatus coronatus.

Common name: Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western).

Other names: At the species level, the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren M. coronatus has also been known as the Lilac-crowned, Mauve-crowned or Purple-crowned Wren, the Crowned Superb-warbler, and the Purple-crowned Wren-warbler (Higgins et al. 2001).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is a conventionally accepted subspecies (Schodde & Mason 1999; Higgins et al. 2001).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is a small bird measuring approximately 14 cm in length, with a wing-span of approximately 16 cm, and weighing 9-13 g (Higgins et al. 2001; Rowley & Russell 1993). The plumage varies according to sex and age and, in males, season, but all birds, regardless of age, sex or time of year, are mostly warm-brown above, and white below with a buff wash, and have a long blue tail, dark bill, dark irises, and brownish legs and feet (Higgins et al. 2001).

Adult females have dark grey colouring on the forehead, crown and nape, and a red-brown or chestnut 'mask' that extends from the base of the bill to around the eyes, thus framing and highlighting the narrow white supercilia and narrow white eye-rings, and over the ear-coverts (Higgins et al. 2001; Rowley & Russell 1993). The grey colouring on the head becomes noticeably browner as the plumage becomes worn (Higgins et al. 2001).

During the non-breeding season, adult males appear similar to the adult females, but can be distinguished by the colour of the facial 'mask', which varies from black to brown or dark grey, and the duller, off-white or pale grey colour of the supercilia and eye-rings (Higgins et al. 2001). The adult males are much more distinctive during the breeding season, when they develop purple colouring on the forehead, crown and nape, with a black spot in the centre of the crown, and a black 'mask' that extends from the base of the bill to around the eyes and across the ear-coverts, and that continues in a narrow collar around the back of the neck (Higgins et al. 2001; Rowley & Russell 1993).

The sexes are alike in juvenile birds, which appear similar to the adult female, but can be distinguished by the duller colouration, especially on the head and neck, the obvious flesh-white gape and flesh-white cutting edges on the bill, and the more pointed (and generally longer) rectrices (i.e. tail feathers) (Higgins et al. 2001; van Doorn 2006, pers comm.). Immature birds appear similar to the adults but can, in some instances, and especially in immature males, be distinguished from the adults (Higgins et al. 2001).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) occurs in pairs, or in small groups of up to nine birds (Boekel 1979; Matthews 1918; Rothwell 1962; Rowley & Russell 1993; Wheeler 1965). It breeds in pairs that may be assisted by a small number of helpers (Aumann 1991; Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) occurs along waterways in the Kimberley Division of Western Australia, and east to the Victoria River Downs in the Northern Territory (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984; Rowley 1993; Schodde & Mason 1999). Its distribution includes parts of the Fitzroy River, Drysdale River, Durack River and Ord River systems in Western Australia (Aumann 1991; Blakers et al. 1984; Rowley 1993; Smith & Johnstone 1977; Storr 1980), and the Victoria River system in the Northern Territory (Boekel 1979; Higgins et al. 2001; Storr 1977; Rowley 1993).

The extent of occurrence is estimated to be 250 000 km². This estimate, which is based on published maps, is considered to be of high reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

There have been no recent changes in the extent of occurrence (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, the extent of occurrence did decline during the 20th century, when the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) became locally extinct along the lower Fitzroy River, at the south-western limits of its (now former) distribution (Rowley 1993).

The area of occupancy is estimated to be 1 000 km². This estimate, which is based on the number of 1 km² grid squares that the fairy-wren is thought to occur in at the time when its population is most constrained, is considered to be of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

The area of occupancy is likely to be declining (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The distribution of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western), and thus the area of occupancy, has been severely reduced since the subspecies was first discovered 140 years ago (Rowley 1993). Declines have occurred along the lower reaches of the Fitzroy River, where the fairy-wren is now locally extinct, and along the upper Fitzroy River and Ord River systems where only small, relict populations persist (Blakers et al. 1984; Rowley 1988, 1993; Rowley & Russell 1997; Smith & Johnstone 1977).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is estimated to occur in thirteen locations: the upper Fitzroy River (including the Adcock River, Traine River and Hann River), Isdell River, Berckelman River, Drysdale River, Durack River, Pentecost River, Chamberlain River, King George River, Berkeley River, Forrest River, Bow River, Ord River and Victoria River systems (Aumann 1991; Johnstone & Storr 2004; Rowley 1993). The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) has not been recorded on the King George River, Berkeley River or Forrest River, but all three rivers contain habitat suitable for the fairy-wren. These sites have not yet been surveyed because of their inaccessibility, but are likely to support small fairy-wren populations (Rowley 1993).

It is claimed that the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) population is not severely fragmented (Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, the subspecies occurs in small and scattered populations (Rowley 1993) that are confined to river systems, and these river systems are separated from one another by rugged terrain. This probably makes it difficult for the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) to recolonise former areas if it is displaced (Russell 2006, pers. comm.). Furthermore, surveys in the Victoria River region have shown that its primary habitat is highly fragmented (van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

The avifauna of the Kimberley and Victoria River regions have been documented by a number of observers or surveys (see Rowley [1993] for summary of observations within the distribution of the fairy-wren). However, only a small number these studies, such as those by Boekel (1979), Rowley (1987, 1993) and Rowley and Russell (1993), have specifically targeted the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western), and only one study (Rowley 1993) has extrapolated from survey data to produce population estimates. Some areas of apparently suitable habitat have not been surveyed because of their inaccessibility (Rowley 1993). The small number of targeted studies and surveys, and the inaccessibility of some areas of habitat, suggests that the current estimates of the distribution and population size of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) could underestimate, or overestimate, the actual distribution and population size of the subspecies.

The total population size of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is estimated at 12 000 breeding birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000). This estimate is considered to be of low reliability (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The total population size had previously been estimated at approximately 2500 breeding pairs (or less than 7000 individuals) (Rowley 1993), but this estimate was revised when surveys along the Victoria River indicated that populations there were much larger than was previously thought (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

As populations of Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) that occur on different river systems are separated from all other populations by stretches of unsuitable (and seemingly impassable) habitat, they are thus considered to be isolates (Rowley 1993). On the basis of this information, the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is estimated to occur in a total of thirteen subpopulations. Estimates of population size are available for seven of the supposed thirteen subpopulations: the upper Fitzroy River subpopulation (estimated population size less than 1000 individuals), the Drysdale River subpopulation (1500 individuals), the Durack River subpopulation (1500 individuals), the King George River subpopulation (less than 500 individuals), the Berkeley River subpopulation (less than 500 individuals), the Forrest River subpopulation (less than 500 individuals) and the Victoria River subpopulation, which was estimated to contain about 2000 individuals in 1986 (Rowley 1993) but, after more recent surveys, is now thought contain about 5000 breeding birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Little information is available on the trends in numbers of the individual subpopulations. The Fitzroy River, Ord River and Victoria River subpopulations declined during the 20th century (Boekel 1979; Rowley 1993; Smith & Johnstone 1977), but more recent data suggests that the Ord River population may now be increasing in size (Higgins et al. 2001).

The upper Fitzroy River, Isdell River, Drysdale River and Victoria River subpopulations all occur, at least partly, within conservation reserves (Rowley 1993; Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data). The Victoria River subpopulation is mostly located within Gregory National Park, but lower densities of fairy-wrens also occur on leasehold land, aboriginal land and privately-owned land (van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). The tenures of land are otherwise unknown, although at the species level, the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is known to occur on private property and vacant crown land, and in conservation reserves (Rowley 1988).

The population size of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) has declined in the past (see below), and is likely to still be declining today (Garnett & Crowley 2000). The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) was formerly common (or present in large numbers) in the Fitzroy River system (Higgins et al. 2001; Rowley 1993), the Pentecost River system (House 1902) and the Ord River system (Kilgour 1904; Storr 1977). It is no longer found at the lower reaches of the Fitzroy River (Rowley 1993; Smith & Johnstone 1977), only a small population remains on the Pentecost River (Johnstone & Storr 2004), and only a small and scattered population remains at the upper reaches of the Fitzroy River. Most of the population that inhabited the Ord River valley was destroyed when the area was deliberately flooded in the 1970s to form Lake Kununurra and Lake Argyle (Rowley 1988, 1993), but more recent reports suggest that this population may now be increasing in size (Higgins et al. 2001). The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is also believed to have declined in parts of the Victoria River system (Boekel 1979; Rowley 1993), although more recent surveys indicate that the fairy-wren is still abundant in this region and that populations are much larger than previously thought (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Higgins et al. 2001).

The generation length of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is estimated to be four years. This estimate is considered to be of medium reliability, and is based on the life history data of similar species in a similar environment (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

No populations have been identified as being of special importance to the recovery and long-term survival of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western). However, the conservation of the larger populations may be of most benefit to the long-term survival of the fairy-wren. On this basis, the populations that occur on the upper Fitzroy, Drysdale, Durack and Victoria Rivers (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Rowley 1993) are likely to be of most importance to the conservation effort.

No cross-breeding has been recorded between the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) and the other recognised subspecies of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren, M. c. macgillivray, or between the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) and any other species. The distributions of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) and M. c. macgillivray are geographically separated by more than 200 km of unsuitable habitat (Rowley 1993; Schodde & Mason 1999). It is, therefore, unlikely that any cross-breeding occurs between the two subspecies.

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) occurs in Geikie Gorge National Park, Drysdale River National Park and King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park in Western Australia, and in Gregory National Park in the Northern Territory (Atlas of Australian Birds, unpublished data; Rowley 1993).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) inhabits dense, riparian vegetation in the wet-dry tropics of Western Australia and the Northern Territory (Boekel 1979; Smith & Johnstone 1977; Rowley & Russell 1993, 1997). It is found near permanent rivers and springs (or associated billabongs and swamps) (Rowley 1988, 1993), where it occupies dense thickets of Pandanus aquaticus or canegrass and also occurs, less frequently, in rushes and shrubs (Boekel 1979; Mathews 1918; Rowley 1993; Sharland 1962; Smith & Johnstone 1977; Storr 1980; Rothwell 1962; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.; Whitlock 1925).

The term canegrass is a generic one that is used to describe various species of bamboos and grasses that grow in dense thickets close to permanent water (Rowley 1993); the species of canegrass that is most used by the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is Chionachne cyathopoda, but it also utilizes other canegrass species including Mnesithea rottboellioides and Ophiuros exaltatus (Higgins et al. 2001; A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). The habitats occupied by the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) also usually contain tall emergent trees, which are generally species of Eucalyptus and Melaleuca. These trees are normally little used by the species (Boekel 1979; Rowley 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is said to rarely occur more than 10 m from permanent rivers and springs (Rowley 1988, 1993). However, it is regularly observed more than 10 m, and sometimes up to 1 km or more, from the Victoria River (Higgins et al. 2001; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.), and it has also been recorded up to 180 m from the Fitzroy River (Smith & Johnstone 1977).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) may also occur in other habitat types. For example, it is plentiful in dense grasslands at the Victoria River Crossing in the Northern Territory (Higgins et al. 2001), and was once recorded in a stand of mangroves (Wheeler 1965). In some areas of the Victoria River, it is common in dense patches infested by weeds such as Xanthium strumarium (Higgins et al. 2001; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

Tall emergent trees (generally species of Eucalyptus and Melaleuca) are not normally used by the fairy-wren, but they provide an important refuge when the rivers flood and burst their banks and the more typical habitat of the fairy-wren becomes inundated (Boekel 1979; Rowley 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

Both sexes of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) probably reach sexual maturity at about one year of age. However, young fairy-wrens (and especially males) tend to remain with their parents and help to raise their siblings after reaching maturity, and some helpers may assist their parents for up to four years or more before departing their natal territory and forming a breeding pair (Rowley & Russell 1993, 1997; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

There is no precise information available on the maximum longevity, but banding studies indicate that invidual Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens (western) are capable of surviving for nine years or more (van Doorn 2006). At the species level, the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is said to be long-lived (Rowley 1988).

The mortality rates of breeding Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens (western) are low compared to those of non-breeding yearlings. Based on a study of both Purple-crowned Fairy-wren subspecies, approximately 70% of breeding birds survive each year, but only about 50% of yearlings reach their second year. However, once the young birds reach two years of age (and many have entered the breeding population), their mortality rates are roughly equivalent to those of adults (Rowley & Russell 1993).


The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) breeds in solitary and socially monogamous pairs that may be assisted by a small number of helpers (Aumann 1991; Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993). The helpers usually consist of progeny from earlier breeding attempts (Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993). Breeding activity has been recorded in most months (Aumann 1991; Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.), and can probably take place throughout the year (Rowley & Russell 1993).

The dome-shaped nests are made from rootlets, grass stems, leaves and bark, and are lined with fine rootlets and grass (Johnstone & Storr 2004; Rowley & Russell 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). They are built close to ground in thickets of Pandanus aquaticus and canegrass (especially Chionachne cyathopoda) (Boekel 1979; Officer 1974; Rowley & Russell 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). Clutches usually consist of two or three eggs (Johnstone & Storr 2004; Rowley & Russell 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). The eggs are white or pinkish-white in colour and have pinkish- or reddish-brown, or brown, spots and blotches (Johnstone & Storr 2004; van Doorn 2006). They are incubated for a period of 14 days (Rowley & Russell 1993).

The nestlings are brooded by the female (Boekel 1979) and are fed by all members of the breeding group (i.e. by both parents plus any helpers present) (Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993). They remain in the nest for a period of about 10 days. They are barely able to fly when they leave the nest, and remain in dense cover for about a week. The young continue to be fed by members of the breeding group for at least three weeks after they have left the nest (Rowley & Russell 1993). Helpers often continue to attend and feed the young whilst the breeding male and female begin another breeding attempt (van Doorn 2006). Breeding groups can rear up to three broods per season if conditions are suitable. Conversely, breeding may not occur at all during very dry years (Rowley & Russell 1993).

Data on breeding success are available from Drysdale River Crossing in Western Australia and the Victoria River region in the Northern Territory. At Drysdale River Crossing, breeding groups produced a mean of 0.8 yearlings per year, and the average production of breeding groups varied between years from 0.3 to 1.2 yearlings per year, and was greatest following wet seasons that had good rains (Rowley & Russell 1993). No incidences of nest predation were recorded at Drysdale River Crossing (Rowley & Russell 1993), but at least 50%, and perhaps as many as 65%, of nests observed in the Victoria River region were subject to predation (van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). No nest predators have been confirmed, but potential predators include Olive Pythons Liasis olivaceus, Gould's Goannas Varanus gouldii, Mitchell's Water Monitors V. mitchelli, Pheasant Coucals Centropus phasianinus, feral cats Felis catus, introduced rats Rattus rattus, and native rodents (Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993; A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). Nests are sometimes parasitized by Brush Cuckoos Cacomantis variolosus (Rowley & Russell 1993).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) feeds on insects (including beetles, ants, bugs, wasps, grasshoppers, moths and flies) and their larvae, and spiders (Boekel 1979; Hall 1902; Mathews 1918; Rowley & Russell 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). It is also said to feed on leaf material (Hall 1902) and, based on species level information (Schodde 1982), may also take some seeds.

The diet of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) may vary somewhat according to climatic conditions. For example, ants appear to be a more important food source during dry years than they are in years of greater rainfall (Rowley & Russell 1993).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) forages in thickets of Pandanus and canegrass (especially Chionachne cyathopoda), and occasionally in herbs, shrubs, trees and adjacent grasslands (Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993; A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). It forages on the ground and in vegetation (see below), and sometimes captures insects in flight (Hall 1902; Mathews 1918; Rowley & Russell 1993). On the ground, it hops rapidly and searches for food items amongst the leaf litter, roots, and around the boles of Pandanus plants (Boekel 1979; Hall 1902; Rowley & Russell 1993; Whitlock 1925; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.). In vegetation, it moves rapidly amongst Pandanus leaves, using its feet to grasp the blades of the leaves, and searches amongst the debris that becomes trapped in Pandanus plants during floods (Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is described as sedentary or resident (Boekel 1980; Rowley & Russell 1993). Territories are maintained throughout the year, and usually the same site (or area) is used year after year (Rowley & Russell 1993). The only movements that are known to occur are local movements away from flooded territories (Boekel 1979, 1980), and some local dispersal and exchange of birds between breeding pairs following the death or 'divorce' of a pair member (Rowley & Russell 1993). Fairy-wren progeny may remain at their natal territory and assist their parents for up to four years or more, although most progeny disperse after one to three years, and female progeny tend to disperse sooner, and farther, than their male siblings (Rowley & Russell 1993; van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).


Breeding pairs of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western), and their helpers, maintain a territory throughout the year (Rowley & Russell 1993). The territories are said to consist of a length of river and its associated riparian vegetation, and to generally include the vegetation on either side of the river (Boekel 1979; Rowley & Russell 1993). However, a recent study on the Victoria River found that territories were non-linear. Furthermore, none of the territories that were observed encompassed both banks of the river (although the Victoria River is described as being very wide) (van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

Estimates of territory size are available only for linear territories. At Drysdale River Crossing, the average length of territories (i.e. the average length of river and its associated riparian vegetation occupied by breeding groups) was about 300 m (Rowley & Russell 1993); and at Timber Creek, in the Northern Territory, the length of territories ranged from about 180 to 230 m (Rothwell 1962). The location and boundaries of territories usually remain fairly constant year after year. However, territories may occasionally be abandoned after the death of one or both members of a breeding pair, or the divorce of a breeding pair (and abandoned territories may be re-occupied, or absorbed into the territory of a neighbouring group), or become divided when a member of a breeding group finds a mate and then defends a portion of its former territory against its former group (Rowley & Russell 1993).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species within its accepted range (Higgins et al. 2001; Whitlock 1925). The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is also unlikely to be confused with the other subspecies of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren, M. c. macgillivrayi, because their distributions are separated by more than 200 km of unsuitable and, for the fairy-wrens, seemingly impassable habitat (Rowley 1993).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) may be detected by sight, or by its call (Magrath et al. 2004), which is louder and lower-pitched than calls of other species of Malurus (Rowley & Russell 1993), and thus can be distinguished by experienced observers (Magrath et al. 2004). It has been described as shy or very shy (Hall 1902; Hall 1974; Mathews 1918), and also as inquisitive (Mathews 1918; Wheeler 1965; A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) is threatened by the loss and degradation of its riparian habitat. This is mainly due to overgrazing and trampling by cattle and sheep, and burning (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Officer 1964; Rowley 1988, 1993), but degraded habitats are also susceptible to soil erosion and weed invasion, which can prevent the native vegetation inhabited by the fairy-wren from regenerating (Rowley 1993). The loss and degradation of riparian habitat due to pastoral activity and associated processes, and to the flooding of the Ord River valley in the 1970s to form Lake Argyle and Lake Kununurra, led to a severe reduction in the distribution and numbers of the fairy-wren during the 20th century (Rowley 1988, 1993).

The impact, or potential impact, of these processes is likely to have subsided in more recent years. The impacts of pastoral activity have been mitigated in some parts of the Kimberley and Victoria River system by the exclusion of stock from riparian areas on some large stations (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Rowley 1993), and many of the remaining populations are located on lands that are now designated as conservation reserves (Higgins et al. 2001). However, the effectiveness of these actions has probably been partially diminished in the Victoria region by damage to fences on many properties, which allows stock to access riparian areas, and increased numbers of buffalo, which potentially graze and trample, and therefore degrade, riparian habitat (A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

The degree of weed invasion is increasing along many rivers occupied by the fairy-wren (Garnett & Crowley 2000), but one of the densest fairy-wren populations on the Ord River occurs in weed-infested riparian understorey (Garnett & Crowley 2000). This suggests that an increase in weeds may actually be beneficial (Higgins et al. 2001) in some instances. However, this is not the case along the Victoria River system, where weed-infested habitat is used less often than native vegetation, and is not used at all for breeding purposes (A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

There is some potential for extensive flooding or a large fire, especially at the end of the dry season, to have a major impact on populations if most or all of the riparian vegetation along a river or river system is affected (E. Russell 2006, pers. comm.; A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.)

The recovery and long-term survival of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) depends on the maintenance of suitable riparian habitat, and the alleviation of the habitat degradation that is caused by grazing, burning and weed invasion (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Rowley 1988, 1993). There is some evidence to indicate that populations can recover once threatening processes are mitigated. For example, the fairy-wren abandoned Geikie National Park following the arrival of, and subsequent grazing by, cattle in 1983, but reappeared in the area in 1986 after the cattle were removed (Rowley 1988, 1993); and the population that occurred around the Ord River Valley, and that was decimated by the flooding of the valley in the 1970s (Rowley 1993), may now be increasing in size (Higgins et al. 2001). However, the absence of the fairy-wren from some sites that contain suitable habitat suggests that its weak flight and, consequently, limited ability to disperse may prevent it from naturally recolonizing some (especially isolated) areas of habitat (Blakers et al. 1984; Rowley 1993).

The following recovery actions have been implemented:

  • The World Wildlife Fund financed a study, conducted between 1983 and 1986, to investigate the status, distribution and ecology of the both subspecies of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (Rowley 1987, 1993; Rowley & Russell 1993).

  • A second study is currently underway to investigate the distribution, status and ecology of, and the effect of disturbances on, the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) in the Victoria River district (A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

  • Surveys have been conducted, and birds have been banded, on parts of the Victoria River. The Victoria River population will be subject to ongoing monitoring so that long-term trends in population parameters can established (A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

  • The major plant species in the primary habitat of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) on the Victoria River, Chionachne cyathopoda, is being grown in nurseries so that it may be used in revegetation programs (A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

  • A proposal has been submitted to the World Wildlife Fund to finance rehabilitation work (fencing, weed control and revegetation programs) at three sites along the Victoria River (A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

The fairy-wren has also benefited, or is likely to have benefited, from general efforts to conserve and improve the quality of riparian vegetation in the Kimberley and Victoria River regions (for example, stock is now excluded from some areas of riparian habitat, and the establishment of Gregory National Park has conserved one fairy-wren population and its habitat on the Victoria River) (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Rowley 1993).

The following recovery actions were recommended by Rowley (1988) and Garnett and Crowley (2000):

  • Exclude feral herbivores from all national parks in which the fairy-wren occurs.

  • Determine the effects of weed invasion on the suitability of riparian habitat to the fairy-wren.

  • Maintain and expand the conservation management of riparian areas with the aim of reducing the damage caused by cattle, weed invasion and fire, and encourage land managers to implement strategies to reduce the impact of livestock upon riparian habitat.

  • Expand the boundaries of Drysdale River National Park upstream to include, at a minimum, the junction of the Drysdale and Gibb Rivers.

It is also recommended that measures be introduced to mitigate the effects of soil erosion, and that liaison with stakeholders continue to educate them about the subspecies and its needs (A. van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).
The following projects have received Government funding grants for conservation and recovery work benefiting the Purple-crowned Fairy Wren :

The Victoria River District Conservation Association Inc (NT) received $28 500 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2006-07, part of which was for restoring and protecting grass habitat at three locations in the Victoria River district, and the immigration and recruitment rate of Purple-crowned Fairy wrens.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (Western Australia) received $19 318 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2008-09 for the Conservation of Purple-crowned Fairy Wrens in the Kimberley. The project will inform the conservation management of the Purple-crowned Fairy Wrens in north-west Australia, by gathering information on distribution, habitat preference, and vulnerability to local extinction.

Detailed studies on the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren have been completed by Boekel (1979), Rowley (1993), and Rowley and Russell (1993). A fourth detailed study has recently been completed, but the results of this study have not yet been published (van Doorn 2006, pers. comm.).

The key management documents that have been produced for the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western) are a conservation statement, and an unpublished report, by Rowley (1987, 1988).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Malurus coronatus coronatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006of) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat alteration (vegetation, soil, hydrology) due to trampling and grazing by livestock Malurus coronatus coronatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006of) [Internet].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Storms and Flooding:flooding Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Malurus coronatus coronatus (Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fr) [Conservation Advice].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem Degradation:Habitat deterioration due to soil degradation and erosion Malurus coronatus coronatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006of) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Malurus coronatus coronatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006of) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Malurus coronatus coronatus (Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fr) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Rattus rattus (Black Rat, Ship Rat) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Malurus coronatus coronatus (Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fr) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Bubalus bubalis (Water Buffalo, Swamp Buffalo) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Malurus coronatus coronatus (Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fr) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Equus asinus (Donkey, Ass) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Malurus coronatus coronatus (Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fr) [Conservation Advice].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Sus scrofa (Pig) Commonwealth Conservation Advice on Malurus coronatus coronatus (Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (western)) (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2008fr) [Conservation Advice].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Malurus coronatus coronatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006of) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Malurus coronatus coronatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2006of) [Internet].

Aumann, T. (1991). Notes on the birds of the upper and middle reaches of Kimberley Rivers during the dry season, 1989. Australian Bird Watcher. 14:51-67.

Barrett, G., A. Silcocks, S. Barry, R. Cunningham & R. Poulter (2003). The New Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.

Boekel, C. (1979). Notes on the status and behaviour of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren Malurus coronatus in the Victoria River Downs area, Northern Territory. Australian Bird Watcher. 8:91--97.

Boekel, C. (1980). Birds of Victoria River Downs Station and of Yarralin, Northern Territory. Part 1. Australian Bird Watcher. 8:171-193.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html.

Hall, B.P. (Ed.) (1974). Birds of the Harold Hall Australian Expeditions, 1962-70. London: British Museum (Natural History).

Hall, R. (1902). Notes on a collection of bird skins from the Fitzroy River, north-western Australia. Emu. 1:87-112.

Higgins, P.J., J.M. Peter & W.K. Steele, eds. (2001). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 5: Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

House, F.M. (1902). Kimberley Exploring Expedition. Report on Exploration of North-west Kimberley, 1901. In: Brockman. Page(s) 18-19. Western Australian Government, Perth.

Johnstone, R.E. & G.M. Storr (2004a). Handbook of Western Australian Birds. Passerines (Blue-winged Pitta to Goldfinch). 2. Western Australian Museum, Perth.

Kilgour, J.F. (1904). A trip to the Ord River (north-western Australia). Emu. 4:37-43.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Matthews, G.M. (1918). Birds of the north and north-west of Australia. South Australian Ornithologist. 3:174-180.

Officer, H.R. (1964). Adaptability of the Purple-crowned Wren to loss of habitat. Emu. 63:340-342.

Officer, H.R. (1974). Northern Kimberley birds. Australian Bird Watcher. 5:191-195.

Rothwell, V. (1962). Purple-crowned Wren. Bird Observer. 370:3.

Rowley, I. (1987). Conservation of the Purple-crowned Fairy-wren (Malurus coronatus) in Northern Australia. Unpublished report to the World Wildlife Fund (Australia), Sydney.

Rowley, I. (1988). The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren --- an RAOU Conservation Statement. RAOU Report Series. 34.

Rowley, I. (1993). The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren Malurus coronatus. 1. History, distribution and present status. Emu. 93:220--234.

Rowley, I. & E. Russell (1993). The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren Malurus coronatus. 2. Breeding biology, social organisation, demography and management. Emu. 93:235-250.

Rowley, I. & E. Russell (1997). Fairy-Wrens and Grasswrens. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Russell, E. (2006). Personal communication.

Schodde, R. (1982). The Fairy-Wrens. A Monograph of the Maluridae. Lansdowne Editions, Melbourne.

Schodde, R. & I.J. Mason (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO.

Sharland, M. (1962). Purple-crowned Wren. Bird Observer. 370:3.

Smith, L.A., & R.E. Johnstone (1977). Status of the Purple-crowned Wren (Malurus coronatus) and Buff-sided Robin (Poecilodryas superciliosa) in Western Australia. Western Australian Naturalist. 13:185-188.

Storr, G.M. (1977). Birds of the Northern Territory. Special Publications of the Western Australian Museum. 7:1-130.

Storr, G.M. (1980). Birds of the Kimberley Division, Western Australia. Special Publications of the Western Australian Museum, No. 11. 11:1-117. Perth, Western Australia: Western Australian Museum.

van Doorn, A. (2006). Personal communication.

Wheeler, J. (1965). Purple-crowned Wren: habitat and call-note. Emu. 64:219.

Whitlock, F.L. (1925). Ten months on the Fitzroy River, north-western Australia. Emu. 25:69-89.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Malurus coronatus coronatus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:54:29 +1000.