img
Made Possible through support of

Meridian Energy

Run with the support of

Department of Conservation

img

South Island Fantail / Pīwakawaka

South Island Fantail / Pīwakawaka

The first local animal in this series could not have been anything else but the fantail (photos: Anja Köhler).

The fantail was chosen as symbol and logo for the Kids Restore the Kepler project because of its inquisitive, lively, mischievous and very lovable behaviour.  

Three subspecies are recognised in New Zealand: North Island fantail R. f. placabilis (Not Threatened), South Island fantail R. f. fuliginosa (Not Threatened), and Chatham Island fantail R. f. penita (At Risk, Naturally Uncommon).

Did you know that fantails are also found in forests from southern Asia to Australia and southwestern Pacific Islands, but the three subspecies named above are only found in New Zealand, and therefore are endemic

In Māori mythology the fantail was associated with the presence of death in the world. Māui was convinced that he could eradicate death by successfully passing through the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-pō. He entered the goddess’s sleeping body through the pathway of birth by taking on the form of an earthworm. The fantail, warned by Māui to be quiet, began laughing and woke Hine-nui-te-pō, who was so angry that she promptly killed Māui.

The fantail is one of the few native bird species in New Zealand that has been able to adapt to an environment greatly altered (changed) by humans. Originally a bird of open native forests and scrub, it is now also found in exotic plantation forests, in orchards and in gardens. Fantails have an altitudinal range that extends from sea level to the snow line.

(Information from: Department of Conservation website.)

Fantails are small and can manipulate their wings and tail to manoeuvre easily. This ability makes them perfectly adapted to catch insects whilst flying. Fantails mainly eat small invertebrates, such as moths, flies, beetles and spiders. Large prey is subdued by being held in a foot against a perch and then being repeatedly pecked. Indigestible portions, such as wings, are often discarded before the remainder is eaten. Small fruit are sometimes eaten.

(Information from: New Zealand Birds Online.)

Fantails appear very friendly when they perform their acrobatic flights around us. They are however not really interested in us, but in the insects we disturb whilst walking.


Questions Asked

  1. img

    Pip

    1st September 2019

    At what age do fantails fledge?

    1. img

      KRTK

      1st September 2019

      The nestlings fledge when they are 13 or 14 days old. After leaving the nest, the chicks stay close together. They usually spend their first two or three hours away on or near the ground, where they are vocal and therefore vulnerable to predation. They quickly gain strength and some flight skills, and soon follow their parents up into the branches. Until the hen starts building the next nest, both parents feed the young birds. The cock then looks after them by himself until the next clutch hatches. The secret to fantails’ relative success compared to other native birds is their ability to produce lots of young. Some chicks are therefore likely to escape predation and populations can bounce back quickly after a decline in numbers. (From: Silence of the fantails)

  2. img

    piper

    18th September 2019

    what age do fantail die

    1. img

      KRTK

      18th September 2019

      They have a short life cycle and leave for about three years here in New Zealand. Fantails stay in pairs all year but high mortality means that they seldom survive more than one season. The success of the species is largely due to the fantail’s prolific and early breeding. Juvenile males can start breeding between 2–9 months old, and females can lay as many as 5 clutches in one season, with between 2–5 eggs per clutch. (From: https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/fantail-piwakawaka/)

  3. img

    piper

    18th September 2019

    how many fantails are in the world

    1. img

      KRTK

      18th September 2019

      Over 40 species are found in Australasia, including New Zealand, Australia, India, Samoa, Polynesia, Indonesia, China and the Philippines.

Have a Question?

Your email will not appear on the page, it is used to email you once your question has been answered.

Thank you for asking a question! Your question has been sent, it will appear on this page along with the answer once it has been approved, we will email you once it has been answered.