GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

After such a woeful outpouring a couple of posts ago, I’ve had a most thrilling sighting this afternoon.

At first I thought it was a baby Willy Wagtail I saw out of the corner of my eye (whilst typing at my desk).   I opened the sliding balcony door and stepped out into the wild gusty wind and went over to the balcony fence.

There was a tiny flash of black darting continually around the Japanese Maple (located between my balcony and the footpath).

I went back indoors and grabbed the long 150-500mm ‘birding’ lens and quickly flipped the 9 focus points to 1 and went back outdoors to try to get that between the Maple foliage.   Not thick foliage at this stage of Spring, but thick enough for me to quickly go through something like 50 shots in an attempt to get the tiny bird in focus.

Here are a few attempts…..

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I was totally mystified by the white wing-like patches behind the white ‘eyebrow’ feathers (which would have made it a Willy Wagtail chick flashing its tail backwards and forwards faster than the eye or camera could follow).

I got my Australian Bird Guide Book out and after downloading the images onto the 27″ screen I realized I had captured some images of a new Bird I’d never seen before – a Grey Fantail.

What a thrill!

Fantails are common birds all over Australia, but I’d never seen one before.

My excitement started to die down and all those long months of photographing the fast-moving Superb Fairy-wrens on my balcony started to pay off.

I finally got some better shots……

The white chin feathers clinched it!  Besides, Northern Fantails are restricted to the far north of Australia, so it wasn’t one of that species.   If you think I’ve got the ID wrong, please let me know in the comments section.

This was about 1.45pm or so.   I was so engrossed in my efforts I nearly forgot I had a doctor’s appointment at the local clinic.

Anyway, 2 hours later, when I returned home, the bird was still frantically flying around the Maple tree, then to the hedge next to the footpath, to the young Eucalyptus sapling and then back to the Maple.

Before I left home it had crashed into the glass balcony fence several times.

It’s 6.00pm at the moment and it’s still madly (and somewhat erratically) moving from branch to branch and tree to tree.

I wonder if it’s looking for its Mother or nest?

I wonder if crashing into the balcony glass fence a few times has hurt it somehow?

I’d never be able to catch it.

If it’s still in the tree tomorrow……. crazily flying around, I’ll be on the phone trying to find the appropriate wildlife association or the local Park Ranger to come and try to catch it and take it to a vet or something.  It is probably a bit premature to phone now this late in the day.

I’ve never seen a bird flying so fast and behaving in such a crazy fashion.

Except when a Rainbow Lorikeet, who flew into my lounge window, crash-landed and fell down dead in my plant pot.   Its body was still warm when I picked it up and surveyed the broken body.   I have to admit a tear came to my eye at that moment.


24 thoughts on “GREY FANTAIL (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

  1. Such a small bird and such a big tail. So glad you got some good photos of this bird. It always thrills me when I get pictures of a bird that has never visited my yard before. Maybe the bird was looking for a mate to begin Spring nesting. It is sad when a bird runs into a window or something and dies. My granddaughter and I tried to save a little humming bird that did that, but we shed tears when it died.

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    1. The Fantail was about as small (or even smaller) than the tiny Fairy-wrens, Peggy. And, it moved from branch to branch faster than the Fairy-wrens.

      I’m actualy amazed that I got the last couple of well-focused shots.

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    1. I was so glad I had that long 150-500mm lens, Pete. In the end, the clear shots are when I leaned over the balcony fence and my view was free from glass windows/fences.


    1. The Fantail is gone this morning thankfully, Eliza. When I wash the floor-to-ceiling windows with a squeegee, they look like a mirror and the birds think it’s blue sky. The reason I wash the windows, apart from improving the view, means I can sit at my desk and get fairly good shots of the avian visitors to my garden, without the lens continually autofocusing on the dirty rain droplets.

      The couple of friends that visit occasionally are always stunned by that feeling of ‘sitting in a garden’ I achieve mid-Summer (when the plant growth is full and luxuriant). The view is not so exciting in Winter.

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  2. What a marvellous sighting! I would be excited too. Perhaps it’s a young one learning to fly still, although the fantail’s flight is naturally erratic. Keep us posted!

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    1. It was great fun watching that Fantail, Jane. So, you mentioning the erratic bird flight means my Fantail was probably doing a normal flight pattern I guess. Still, it did it for about 5 hours in the one area (before it got too dark to see) and that really was worrisome.


  3. About every second year I see/hear a bird I’ve never seen/heard before (I’m not all that observant, so that might account for it). It amazes me. There is a new one this spring that sounds like the sound my fridge makes when there is a low voltage issue.
    Most spring times we get young birds hitting our windows (showing off as to how well they can take a short cut). Mostly they recover, but every now and then…….
    Holding a dead bird that is still warm from the life that has gone out of it is indeed a tearful moment.
    Holding a bird that is dying and hoping that it will recover is profoundly moving, and not in a good way.
    Great photos and cool bird.

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    1. Thanks Terry. I can well imagine how many birds of various species you get to see up in the hills.

      There’s supposed to be 101 bird species in Frogs Hollow nature reserve behind my building, but I think I’ve only photographed about 20. I’m always amazed that so many visit my small balcony garden and I am supposing they nest in the thick hedges (2) across the road.

      I’ve seen about 4 dead larger birds which is sad enough for me in my lifetime. I don’t want to see any baby or tiny ones.

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    1. Thanks Sharon.
      Its taken months/years of practice to capture those fast-moving little birds in focus I can assure you. Some of the wren images I take are really good and some not-so-good, but that’s always the case when you’re doing bird photography in the form of a regular blog at home.
      I’m so lucky to have this wonderful balcony and birds stopping by.
      Bit scarce this week and I really think the House Sparrows and Fairy-wrens are nesting and maybe even caring for young. It’ll be interesting to see if I see some tiny chicks in a few weeks.


      1. I also have the fairy wrens at the moment nesting, a bit worried about some of the larger birds, like the currawongs finding any chicks fair game. I hope you don’t mind but I mentioned your blog in my last post and put up a link, just very impressed with your photography and observation and the post was mainly just a short book meme but the book was Bird Therapy and it also put me in mind of your blog.

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    2. Thanks for linking my blog on your own, Sharon. Always good to hear someone is enjoying my photos and narrative. Sometimes I worry that my tiny observations on my balcony garden and birdlife get a bit repetitious for those much more used to exotics and overseas travel, but one has to work within one’s boundaries when you have chronic ill-health keeping you close to home base.


      1. I get upset when I see a bird that looks ill or act strangely, Vicki, but most of the time there really isn’t anything we can do, but I am sure that we misinterpret some looks or behavior. Let’s hope for the best for your visitor.

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  4. No wonder you were pleased. Those are some fine photos. I’ve been trying to think if I’ve ever seen such a frantically flying bird, and I think the only time I have is when they’re somehow trapped. But, if an erratic flight pattern is part of their behavior, you may have had a double treat: both the bird, and a bit of its unique behavior.

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    1. I think these were the hardest bird shots I’ve ever attempted, Linda. Even harder than photographing the Fairy-wrens.

      The new foliage on the Japanese Maple only doubled the difficulty. For now, let’s hope all was well in the end, although 5 hours is a long time to be constantly flitting from branch to branch in the one tree. Perhaps one day a Grey Fantail might land on the fence rail and I can get some more shots.


  5. Such a joy to see lovely photos of the grey fantail – they are wonderful birds to watch. Like you, I had to look them up when I first saw a small flock of them and I can still recall a description of their movements as ‘acrobatic’. They are such a treat, and tricky to capture on camera as they move so quickly. Thank you for sharing the moment.

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    1. You’re welcome. I wish they’d stand still on my balcony fence so I can get an even better shot, but I guess that is asking too much of these fast moving birds. I still find it hard to believe that bird jumped from branch to branch continuously for more than 5 hours. Can you imagine us humans zigzagging continuously across a field very fast for that amount of time, for that is what it amounted to.

      (and I thought the Superb Fairy-wrens moved fast LOL).

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