Category Archives: Fantail

Willie Wagtail sings to beauty at dawn

It’s early on a cold morning in Pyrmont. A little Willie Wagtail perches on a bollard and sings its heart out. Shades of silver dapple the water. Sydney Harbour Bridge decorates the skyline. All the requisites for an atmospheric scene are present and correct.

Apologies for the low quality of the picture. I was using my mobile phone to film the scene, and had to zoom because the bird was so small. However, this little Willie Wagtail has a big voice and a big heart.

In this second video, a Willie Wagtail harasses a Currawong, chittering and swooping at it. The birds are in the same place as the previous video, so it’s probably the same Willie Wagtail. It’s a common sight in Australia, to see the little birds chasing away the big ones.

Despite their name, Willie Wagtails are actually fantails rather than wagtails. The latter tend to waggle their tails up and down rather than side to side. However, Australians chose the name Willie Wagtail and it stuck.

Here’s a still photo of the same bird, also taken with my mobile phone, so also not wonderfully in focus.

Common name: Willie Wagtail

Scientific name: Rhipidura leucophrys

Approximate length: 20 cm

Date spotted: August 2017 (Winter)

Location: Pyrmont, Sydney: 33°51’57.3″S 151°11’47.9″E

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Grey Fantail fluttering and waving its tail

Every now and then, while walking in the bush near Sydney, I see a bird fluttering up and down a tree and waving its tail in a merry dance. These birds move fast and don’t stay in one place for long. It’s hard to take a photo, especially as they’re usually deep in the undergrowth.

Today I managed to video one of these showoffs. As you’ll see, I had to follow the bird in its random jaunts to various branches of the tree. Now that I had a video, I could identify the bird. It’s a Grey Fantail, according to my bird book. Specifically, I think it’s one the alisteri race, which is the most common in the Sydney region.

Common name: Grey Fantail

Scientific name: Rhipidura fuliginosa

Approximate length: 15 cm

Date spotted: 13 August 2017 (Early spring)

Location: Manly Dam National Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’16.1″S 151°14’47.5″E

Willie Wagtail attacks Raven

Australian Ravens are big, fierce birds. Willie Wagtails are round little balls of fluff with a faintly ridiculous habit of waving their tails around. But don’t let appearances deceive you. Willie Wagtails are plucky, if reckless. This one took objection to the spot a raven had chosen for a perch, and pestered the larger bird until it flew away.

The characters:

  • Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys),  approximate length 20 cm
  • Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides), approximate length: 50 cm

Date spotted: 29 January 2017

Season: Summer

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’35.0″S 151°14’48.5″E

Willie Wagtail at Manly Dam

So much restless energy. A Willie Wagtail flits from spot to spot, flicking and fanning his tail for anyone who may be watching.

Willie Wagtails are members of the fantail family. Most of those I’ve seen wave their tails from side to side, rather than fanning them. But this one does occasionally show a bit of fan action.

Here’s a still photo, with a nice view of the bird’s white eyebrow:

Wagtail

Common name: Willie Wagtail

Scientific name: Rhipidura leucophrys

Approximate length: 20 cm

Date spotted: 13 June 2016

Season: Winter

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’36.5″S 151°15’16.1″E