Family Fairy-wrens (Maluridae)

Least Concern

White-shouldered Fairy-wren (Malurus alboscapulatus)


French: Mérion à épaulettes German: Weißschulter-Staffelschwanz Spanish: Maluro hombroblanco

Malurus alboscapulatus

A. B. Meyer

, 1874,

Arfak Mountains, c. 3500 feet [c. 1065 m], Vogelkop, New Guinea


Protein evidence indicates that closest allies are M. melanocephalus and M. leucopterus, the three constituting the “bicoloured group”; this relationship confirmed by DNA data#R, which further indicate that present species and M. melanocephalus are sisters. Distinctiveness of some females in races of present species, most notably lorentzi, suggests that more than one species may be involved#R; analysis of songs of all other races, however, reveals no clear difference, but lorentzi remains unsampled. Other proposed races are randi (Wissel Lakes region), included in aida; balim (upper Baliem R and upper Bele R areas) and dogwa (Merauke E to Fly R), both synonymized with lorentzi; and tappenbecki (Sepik R E to Astrolabe Bay) and mafulu (mountain grasslands in SE New Guinea), both included in naimii. Six subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. a. alboscapulatus A. B. Meyer, 1874 – Vogelkop (Arfak and Tamrau Mts and intervening valley), in NW New Guinea.
  • M. a. aida E. J. O. Hartert, 1930 – NW New Guinea (Kumawa Mts#R; NW lowlands E to Humboldt Bay, and Weyland Mts and Wissel Lakes E to Telefomin).
  • M. a. lorentzi van Oort, 1909 – W & S New Guinea (Snow Mts to Trans-Fly and Utaka–Mimika R).
  • M. a. naimii Salvadori & D’Albertis, 1876 – #RN & S lowlands and C highlands of E New Guinea (C Sepik E to Astrolabe Bay; river systems of C highlands; Kerema E to Vanapa R and Wharton Range).
  • M. a. kutubu Schodde & Hitchcock, 1968 – S highlands of C New Guinea (Olsobip E to Mt Giluwe and L Kitubu).
  • M. a. moretoni De Vis, 1892 – N & S coasts of SE New Guinea and intervening mountain valleys (NW to Huon Peninsula, and SW to Brown R and Vanapa R).
  • Descriptive notes

    10–13·5 cm; 8–12 g. Distinctive malurid with comparatively short tail. Male nominate race (all seasons) is entirely glossy black, except for white scapulars; iris... read more


    Song a high-pitched reel lasting 3–4 seconds. Contact call consists of 2–3 notes... read more


    Inhabits grasslands, typically along river valleys; also canegrass, overgrown village gardens,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods; recorded items include spiders (Araneae), beetles (Coleoptera), grasshoppers (Orthoptera), moths (Lepidoptera) and cicadas (... read more


    Data sparse, but from specimen labels appears to lay in any month of year, in both wet and dry seasons. Socially monogamous but probably... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common, and widespread. Appears resilient to clearance, and suited to shifting native garden cultivation. Colonizes newly created forest clearings,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rowley, I. & Russell, E. (2018). White-shouldered Fairy-wren (Malurus alboscapulatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 November 2018).