Hihi volunteer needed

Date posted: 18-Oct-2018

Would you like to volunteer with the Island's hihi team and learn from them how ..

2019 Calendars now available

Date posted: 05-Sep-2018

The new 2019 calendars are now available and this year's is better than ever! Th..

Winners of kokako photo competition

Date posted: 02-Sep-2018

The stunning winning photographs from those submitted to the competition as part..

Kokako Celebration

Date posted: 21-Jul-2018


Kokako Photographic Competition

Date posted: 20-Jul-2018

KĊŒKAKO PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION Celebrating 21 years on Tiritiri Matangi To ce..

New monitoring reports published

Date posted: 19-Jul-2018

Reports on monitoring studies carried out over the past year have now been poste..

2018 Concert coming up soon

Date posted: 15-Feb-2018

Our 2018 concert will feature an afternoon of light classics and jazz courtesy of the Auckland Ph..

Wetapunga talk coming soon

Date posted: 05-Feb-2018

For the Social on 19 March the speaker will be Ben Goodwin of Auckland Zoo, who will talk about t..

Rat caught and now takahe released from pens

Date posted: 28-Jan-2018

Thankfully DOC staff Andre de Graaf and Polly Hall and their assistants have trapped the rat whic..

Your Christmas Shopping for a Song

Date posted: 04-Dec-2017

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


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.