Ecological Research

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 73–80 | Cite as

Relationship between bird-unit size and territory quality in three species of fairy-wrens (Malurus spp.) with overlapping territories

  • Ken Chan
  • John D. Augusteyn
Original Articles

The relationship between unit size and territory quality and size was examined in variegated, superb and red-backed fairy-wrens in an area in which the birds’ territories overlapped extensively. Variegated fairy-wrens had the least number of paired birds and the largest mean unit size. More than half of the superb and red-backed fairy-wrens occurred in pairs. Territory size did not differ between the species. A positive correlation between unit size and territory size was found only in the variegated fairy-wren. Stepwise regression analyses with backward elimination on 10 habitat variables showed that unit size was associated with different territory-quality measures in the three fairy-wren species. It is suggested that species that are more inclined to form pairs or small groups during the breeding season are also more sensitive to ecological factors and prefer not to form large groups in a resource-limited environment.

Key words

brigalow fairy-wren Malurus territory quality unit size 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brooker M. G. & Rowley I. (1995) The significance of territory size and quality in the mating strategy of the splendid fairy-wren. Journal of Animal Ecology 21: 611–627.Google Scholar
  2. Brooker M. G., Rowley I., Adams M. & Baverstock P. R. (1990) Promiscuity: an inbreeding avoidance mechanism in a socially monogamous species? Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 26: 191–199.Google Scholar
  3. Brown J. L. & Balda R. P. (1977) The relationship of habitat quality to group size in Hall’s babbler (Pomastostomus halli). Condor 79: 312–320.Google Scholar
  4. Dunn P. O. & Cockburn A. (1996) Evolution of male parental care in a bird with almost complete cuckoldry. Evolution 50: 2542–2548.Google Scholar
  5. Higgins P. J., Peter J. M. & Steele W. K. (Eds) (2001) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  6. Komdeur J. (1992) Importance of habitat saturation and territory quality for evolution of cooperative breeding in Seychelles warbler. Nature 358: 6.Google Scholar
  7. Langen T. A. & Vehrencamp S. L. (1998) Ecological factors affecting group and territory size in White-throated Magpie-Jays. Auk 115: 327–339.Google Scholar
  8. Ligon J. D., Ligon S. H. & Ford H. A. (1991) An experimental study of the bases of male philopatry in the Cooperatively Breeding Superb Fairy-Wren Malurus cyaneus. Ethology 87: 134–148.Google Scholar
  9. Mulder R. A., Dunn P. O., Cockburn A., Lazenby-Cohen K. A. & Howell M. J. (1994) Helpers liberate female fairy-wrens from constraints on extra-pair mate choice. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 255: 223–229.Google Scholar
  10. Nias R. C. (1984) Territory quality and group size in the Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus. Emu 84: 178–180.Google Scholar
  11. Nias R. C. & Ford H. A. (1992) The influence of group size and habitat on reproductive success in the superb fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus. Emu 92: 238–243.Google Scholar
  12. Pruett-Jones S. G. & Lewis M. J. (1990) Sex ratio and habitat limitation promote delayed dispersal in superb fairy-wrens. Nature 348: 541–542.Google Scholar
  13. Rowley I. (1965) The life history of the superb blue fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus). Emu 21: 251–297.Google Scholar
  14. Rowley I. & Brooker M. G. (1987) The response of a small insectivorous bird to fire in heathlands. In: Nature Conservation: the Role of Remnants of Nature Vegetation (eds D. A. Saunders, G. W. Arnold, A. Burbidge & A. J. M. Hopkins) pp. 211–218. Surrey Beatty, Sydney.Google Scholar
  15. Rowley I. & Russell E. (1990) Splendid Fairy-wren: demonstrating the importance of longevity. In: Cooperative Breeding in Birds: Long-Term Studies in Ecology and Behaviour (eds P. B. Stacey & W. D. Koenig) pp. 1–30. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  16. Rowley I. & Russell E. (1995) The breeding biology of the white-winged fairy-wren Malurus leucopterus leuconotus in a Western Australian Coastal Heathland. Emu 95: 175–184.Google Scholar
  17. Rowley I. & Russell E. (1997) Fairy-Wrens and Grasswrens. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  18. Russell E. & Rowley I. (1988) Helper contributions to reproductive success in the splendid fairy-wren (Malurus splendens). Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 22: 131–140.Google Scholar
  19. Russell E. & Rowley I. (2000) Demography and social organisation of the red-winged fairy-wren, Malurus elegans. Australian Journal of Zoology 48: 161–200.Google Scholar
  20. Spss (1999) SPSS for Windows 10.0. SPSS Inc., Chicago.Google Scholar
  21. Stacey P. B. & Ligon J. D. (1987) Territory quality and dispersal options in the Acorn woodpecker, and a challenge to the habitat-saturation model of cooperative breeding. American Naturalist 173: 831–846.Google Scholar
  22. Tibbetts E. & Pruett-Jones S. (1999) Habitat and nest-site partitioning in splendid and variegated fairy-wrens (Aves: Maluridae). Australian Journal of Zoology 47: 317–326.Google Scholar
  23. Tidemann S. C. (1986) Breeding in three species of fairy-wrens (Malurus): do helpers really help? Emu 86: 131–138.Google Scholar
  24. Tidemann S. C. (1990) Factors affecting territory establishment, size and use by three co-existing species of fairy-wrens (Malurus). Emu 90: 7–14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Blackwell Science Asia Pty. Ltd. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central Queensland UniversityQueenslandAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of ScienceUniversity of the Sunshine CoastQueenslandAustralia
  3. 3.Natural Resource ManagementQueensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Central RegionRockhamptonAustralia

Personalised recommendations