Your Christmas Shopping for a Song

Date posted: 04-Dec-2017

Aka - The Grand Christmas Shopping Expedition to Tiritiri Matangi Island Shop Dreading..

2018 Photo Comp opens for entries

Date posted: 27-Nov-2017

The 2018 Photo Competition is now open for entries. Click here (/2018-photo-competition-tiritiri-mat..

New reports on ruru nesting and Island conservation

Date posted: 02-Oct-2017

Two new reports have been added to the website. The first gives details of a summer students..

2018 calendars now available

Date posted: 27-Sep-2017

Our latest calendar, beautifully illustrated with images taken on the Island, is now available fo..

Guided walks for photographers

Date posted: 21-Jun-2017

For a wonderful day of wildlife photography please join us on Tiritiri Matangi Island for a Ph..

Ferry discounts for Supporters

Date posted: 18-May-2017

Tiritiri Matangi Island, the perfect winter's day trip. The birds are at their best, warm up w..

More kiwi for the Island

Date posted: 04-Apr-2017

In 1993 and 1995, sixteen little spotted kiwi were released on Tiritiri Matangi Island. The ma..

2017 Photo Competition

Date posted: 22-Mar-2017

It is that time of year again when we are looking for entries for our photo competition (and phot..

The 2017 concert

Date posted: 05-Feb-2017

This year's concert promises to be another wonderful and unique experience. Click here (/concert-..

Shorebird Film Festival at Devonport

Date posted: 26-Oct-2016

Click here (/miscellaneous documents/DevWaderFilms.jpg) for details of a forthcoming film festival c..


Scientific name:

 Rhipidura fuliginosa placabilis

Maori Name:




Conservation status

 Endemic, Not threatened

Mainland status:

 Widespread and locally abundant 


 16cm, 8g


 Oldest recorded in NZ 3 years


 August - February


 Mainly invertebrates, some fruit

Fantail - photographer: Max McRaeThe fantail is a small native bird with a small head and bill and a long tail which opens to a fan, giving the bird its name. It has a grey head, white eyebrow and white and black band under the chin on the upper chest. The back is brown and the underparts are a peachy gold. The tail is black and white. The juvenile looks very similar but lacks the upper chest markings and has a browner body and rusty-brown wing coverts. There is a dark phase which is found mainly in the South Island, which is sooty black except for a white spot behind the eye.

Fantails feed mainly on invertebrates taken whilst flying. Using their fanned tail they are very manoeuverable which helps them quickly change direction whilst catching flies. They are known to move around upside down amongst tree ferns and foliage to pick insects from the undersides of leaves. Their main prey are moths, flies, spiders, wasps, and beetles. 

Although the fantail lifespan is relatively short in New Zealand (oldest recorded 3 yrs but in Australia they have been recorded up to 10 yrs) the breed survives due to the prolific and early breeding. Juvenile males can start breeding between two and nine months old and as many as five clutches can be laid in one season, with between two and five eggs per clutch. The fantails stay in pairs all year but high mortality means they are seldom together for more than a season. Both adults incubate for about 14 days and the chicks fledge at about 13 days. Both adults feed the young, but as soon as the female starts building the next nest the male takes over the role of feeding the previous brood.

The main fantail contact call is a penetrating cheet cheet, sounding a bit like a squeaky toy.

Although fantails are often encountered in the forest, they are perhaps most frequently seen in areas of short grass, where they follow people and other large animals around to catch insects disturbed by their feet. On Tiritiri Matangi they are most often found along the East Coast Track, and at certain times of year, when the season's juveniles are out and about, there can be as many as 20 or more on the lawn below the Visitor Centre.

Learn more about the fantail at New Zealand Birds Online.

Photography by: Max McRae ©

References: Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 2000 The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Auckland, Viking.