Human Flower Project
Flowers for ‘The Other Wren’
Among one group of Australian songbirds, flower-giving is a cheatin’ thing.
Male fairy wren (Malurus splendens musgravi) with a petal for his mistress
Photo: Grame Chapman
If your partner hasn’t brought you flowers in awhile – or ever – take heart. He may be a purple crowned fairy-wren.
Most fairy wrens, male and female, are renowned for their infidelity. Pairs put on a good front; they raise their young together and together defend the home territory for life. But nosy researchers who’ve tested the genetics of their progeny have discovered that most of their offspring are “illegitimate.” Also, spying human eyes have caught male fairy-wrens taking off to “court” other females, several others in a day.
To turn on the “other wrens,” males have evolved glitzy blue attire and come-ons, including “presentation of flower petals during courtship displays.”
But recently, scholars at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Germany and the University of Freiburg have found one “unqiuely faithful species,” among these Austraian songbirds.
Purple masked fair wren (Malurus coronatus): homebody
Photo: : Doug Adams, for Australian Wildlife Conservancy
The purple-masked fairy wrens apparently do mate for life – socially and sexually. Studying the genetics of 227 purple fairy-wren offspring from 104 nests in Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Australia, the researches found that only 10 offspring had been fathered by birds other than the “social partners” of mothers.
Fidelity, though, is a flowerless affair. “While male suitors of all other fairy-wrens present flower petals to females during extra-pair courtship, the field researchers never observed this behaviour in purple-crowned fairy wrens in over 300 observation hours.”