Here’s a piece from the wonderful A Field Guide to the Little People by Nancy Arrowsmith with George Morse:
The word ‘fairy ‘ has been so often misused (especially by poets such as Spenser and Drayton) that it is very misleading to employ it as a scientific designation for a particular species of elf. the problem is further complicated by the many sub-species which go under the name of Fairies. The original, powerful majestic Fairies of King Arthur’s time have intermarried with humans and other elvish races, producing a smaller, less powerful modern English Fairy. These can be seen throughout England, dancing merily in the meadows on moonlit nights. uring the day their night-time beauty is transformedand they appear as ugly, wrinkled dwarfs.
Because they are vain and don’t like to be thought of as ugly, the Fairies usually appear during the day in the form of birds, cats, toads or butterflies. The Essex Hyter Sprites are often seen in the form of green-eyed sand swallows. The popularized Dorset Fairies, Pillywiggins, are tiny flower spirits. Some, like the Lincolnshire Tiddy (‘tiny’) Ones, are tied to their natvie fens. Every dialect has its own name for the Fairies, ranging from Vairies and Frairies t the Suffolk Farisees and Lancshire Feeorin.
Despite their great differences in appearance, the Fairies still have many things in common. They all hate misers, St John’s Wort, salt, iron and rowan. They do not like to be talked about or to be thanked or rewarded. They will not visit a house which has ivy on the walls. Bluebells attract them, and primroses, four-leafed clover, cowslips and forget-me-nots give those with second sight glimpse into their land. They love to dance, especially on full-moon nights in May. They usually teat humans well if treated with respect in return.
Identification: The old majestic Fries were Light Elves of large size ad with fair skin. Like the Daoine SIDHE, they were aristocrats and came of the oldest families of elves. It is possible that King Arthur himself was one of them. They cannot seen today, but are sleeping under hills, waiting for the time when they will be needed gain.
The smaller modern Fairies are between a few inches and one and a half feet tall. they have become Dusky Elves. If seen in the daytime, they have old wrinkled faces. They prefer to wear red, but also wear blue, white or green according to the local peasant costume. They are shape-changers and appear in many different insect and animal forms.
Habitat: They live underground or in great palaces above ground that can only be seen at night. They are known throughout England although they are less numerous in the Midlands.