Bird of the Month: The Grey Fantail

By Shanna Rogers, Senior Land Services Officer - Environment
P: 02 6051 2241  | M: 0457 733 261 

  • Bird of the month - Grey FantailGrey Fantails are recognisable by their grey-brown fanned tail
  • These inquisitive birds are known to follow people
  • Encourage them onto your land with dense, shrubby vegetation

The July 2022 Woodland Bird of the Month is the Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)

Grey Fantails are a reasonably common sight this time of year across the Murray region as they flit around chasing insects.

As its name suggests, the Grey Fantail is most easily recognised by its constantly fanned tail.

It looks similar to a Willie Wagtail or Rufous Fantail, but it is usually grey-brown with two small white bars on its wings, white eyebrows and a long, fanned tail.

These little birds are almost continually on the move, constantly changing positions when perched. The tail swishes back and forth, as they flutter about in the canopy of trees or dart after flying insects. The wildly irregular and erratic flight of the Grey Fantail also gives it the nicknames ‘Mad Fan’ and ‘Cranky Fan’.

The Grey Fantail has a delightful call which it makes all year round. It sounds like high-pitched tinkling whistles and squeaks or a rapid double or single ‘chip’. Some describe their call as sounding like a squeaky violin.

Grey Fantails are notoriously inquisitive and often approach visitors to their woodland patch for a quick inspection. They may respond to imitations of its call. They are also known to follow people, catch insects disturbed by their passage, and often settle on posts or other perches near humans.

Encourage Grey Fantails to your garden or farm by planting or allowing the regeneration of dense shrubby vegetation. This will provide shelter for the bird from the wind and predators such as Crows, Ravens, Butcher Birds and other birds of prey. Grey Fantails are insectivores, so any use of chemicals, pesticides and insecticides around their woodland or garden habitat that kills or repels insects should be minimised or avoided.

Did you know?

Grey Fantails have whiskers. These bristles around the beak help to protect the bird’s eyes from the insects it chases through the air and grabs mid-flight. They also give the bird information about how far away the insect is, what position the insect is in when it is caught, and also about airflow around its head.

Find out more about Grey Fantails️

Bird of the month - Grey Fantail

Clockwise from top left 📸 thanks to:

  • Grey Fantail (C)Kevin Bowring 2020
  • Grey Fantail (C)John Eley 2015
  • Grey Fantail (C)Sam 2021, and
  • Grey Fantail (C)Luke Holmes 2021

Photo at top of the page:  Grey Fantail (C)John Barkla 2013

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