The dapper willie wagtail is a friendly yet feisty visitor to our gardens
Photo credit – Melissa Marie
With its resplendent black and white plumage reminiscent of a dapper tuxedo, a pair of assertive eyebrows, and some natty whiskers, the willie wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) is our November bird of the month.
A common, yet welcome resident of our region, the energetic and sprightly wagtail – which is in fact Australia’s largest fantail – can not only be identified by its white belly and black back, but also by its distinctive call, often likened in the birding community to sounding like it’s singing out “sweet pretty creature”.
Dining on a diet of insects, it does not let its small stature stop it from defending its territory against bigger birds, and can often be seen letting kookaburras and similar interlopers know who’s boss.
Inquisitive by nature, they aren’t shy when it comes to humans, and will often come up quite close to inspect whether or not we hairy bipeds have disturbed some worms or bugs as we walk along kicking up dirt, with the wagtail quick to spot and dive for juicy morsels near our feet.
The wagtail’s nest is a work of art, as they carefully and skilfully weave grasses, then cover it with spiderwebs on the outside and line it with more grass, hair or fur. Both mum and dad incubate the eggs, and can often have four clutches in a single season, the elder kids being booted out to make way for the new chicks.
Chirpy and friendly, they really are full of character, and deserve a few minutes of observation as they tirelessly flit around and make our beautiful Cooloola Coast even more full of life.