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Black Fantail Morph flitting through the pampas grasses finding small insects. From above the canopy, along walking tracks and gardens and parks fantails may be found gathering prey. They are almost entirely insectivorous feeding on small creatures almost always taken while in flight. Three feeding methods have been described; hawking, where the Fantail flies out from a perch after sighting an insect; flushing, where it uses its tail or whole body to disturb insects from the vegetation or ground; and ‘feeding associations’, where it moves with other species collecting insects as the flock progresses.
Although New Zealand does not have many indigenous mammals, it has a vast array of native birds. From the long beaked flightless kiwi to the once nearly extinct black robin, New Zealand is an ideal place for birders who want some unique sightings during their bird-watching adventures. Since many of New Zealand’s greatest birds are elusive, its important to know some of their most identifiable features should you happen upon a rare bird. One of the most widely seen New Zealand birds is the fantail (known in New Zealand as the piwakawaka). As their names suggest, fantails have tails that open like fans. The large fan display is in contrast to its tiny head. Known for its dazzling flying displays and “cheet cheet” sounding call, the fantail is distributed throughout most regions of New Zealand. Fantails are mid to dark grey or grey-brown above, yellowish/orange below, with a white throat, white markings over the eye, and (depending on the race) either white-edged or entirely white outer tail feathers. It grows to 16 centimetres in length, of which half is the tail, which, as the name implies, is often displayed fanned out. This reveals that the outer tail feathers that are light and the centre ones are dark. Some subspecies are found in a darker plumage, notably the “Black fantail” morph seen in up to 25% of South Island birds and less than 1% of North Island birds (it is completely absent from the Chatham Islands).
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 May 2011 Dunedin Otago South Island New Zealand
Featured 6th May 2011
A Pampas Display Black Fantail