Fairy Gerygone is a species of bird in the family Acanthizidae. The bird is native to New Guinea and Queensland and was previously known as the fairy warbler. Among the Australian Gerygones, the Fairy is not only the brightest in color, but it is also one of the few species whose plumage differs demonstrably between males and females.
Both Australian races have a white throat on the female, but the males in the two races differ markedly in their white throats. There are species of these birds living in northeastern Queensland’s rainforests and vine thickets that have upper foliage that provides habitat for them as well as food for them. Gerygone was described by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1865 from a specimen collected in the Aru Islands. As a result of its facial markings, the species’ name is derived from the Latin palpebra, which means ‘eyelid’.
There is a characteristic white ‘moustache’ stripe on the face and throat of males on the Cape York Peninsula south of Cooktown. They have white throats like females, but their chins may have a black spot due to their location south of Ravenshoe and Innisfail, Qld. Those areas intergrade with each other.
Fairy gerygone males hold themselves upright and sing loud melodious songs when their main predator, the black butcherbird, calls. Possibly to keep itself safe from predators, the fairy gerygone nests near wasp nests.
As compared to other warblers, the Fairy Gerygone is more social. Occasionally, it forages in small groups and mixes with other forest birds to forage together. It lives alone or in pairs, but it frequently forms small groups to find food. Its soft, continuous twittering gleans vigorously through shrubbery and tree crowns to capture insects on the wing.
The gerygone’s breeding behavior is similar to other gerygones’ in that it is territorial. While the female does most of the nest construction work, the male attends to his mate and sings around the nest site. The female probably incubates, but the male feeds the young.
There is no known function for the nestlings’ erectile head plumes. Each year, there is one brood, or infrequently two. Fairy Gerygone nests are often occupied by two cuckoos, the Golden Bronze-Cuckoo, and the Little Bronze Cuckoo.
This bird is also known as the Black-throated Warbler, Black-throated Flyeater, Fairy Warbler, and Fairy Flyeater. Fairy Gerygone measures about 100-110 mm in length. MALE: Head and upper parts are dull olives, with a browner or greyer crown and sides of the face. There is a distinct white spot on either side of the forehead and a white ‘moustache’ stripe running down the sides of the throat. Flight feathers are grey-brown in color. With a faint dusky sub-terminal bar, the tail is plain grey-brown in color. The throat is pale brown or dusky in color. The breasts and belly are yellow. The eye is reddish-orange in color. Often, the tip of the bill is pale gray rather than black. The feet are black.
The throat is always white, but there is a hint of ‘moustache’ stripes on the female. Adults: The throat is dull yellow like the breast; no white ‘mustache’ stripe; forehead spots are reduced; the eye is browner; the bill is paler; and the feet are slate grey.
There are two distinct types of fairy Gerygone calls soft chattering and tweeting, made by both sexes in feeding groups. SONG: Prolonged reel of up-and-down whistled notes sung all day by males throughout the year, each more animatedly when breeding.
Breeding occurs sporadically throughout the year, usually between September and March. It consists of a thin, often spherical dome with a long tail and a protruding, funnel-like entrance hood; it is made up of strips of bark and other plant fibers bound with cobweb, embellished with spider eggs, lichen, and moss, lined with vegetable down, and suspended from leafy end branches of a small tree.
Eggs: two or three; pale pink, freckled with red-brown and dull purple-red, often forming a zone at the larger end; oval, 18 x 13 mm. Incubation takes about 12 days, probably by a female. In about 10 days, the young fledge.
The bird ranges from Cape York Peninsula south to Mary River, Queensland, where it inhabits lowland rainforests, particularly their edges and mangroves, as well as a scrub along creeks on higher tablelands. New Guinea and nearby islands are also home to birds. Australians have two races out of five or six.