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October 16, 2013

The Cheeky Fantail

The fantail or piwakawaka is one of our native birds. This year we’ve seen quite a few in our garden and also while we’ve been walking Bella. They’re tiny birds with a tail that fans out—as their name suggests—and they live on a diet of insects. They like to follow people when they’re walking, which gets a bit creepy. I’d call it stalkerish, but in reality they’re snatching up the insects that are disturbed with each footstep. I guess it’s takeaway for birds.

The fantail has a very distinctive cheet-cheet and the birds never seem to keep still. They’re very difficult to photograph because they’re always in motion.




These photos were taken at Christ Church in Russell.

The Maori people consider it bad luck if a fantail flies inside a building. They say the fantail is a messenger and it’s appearance means death or news of death is imminent.

I had one fly inside the house a few months ago, which didn’t make me very happy. The fantail was hanging around outside for days. I’d hear it and shut the door since the bird seemed determined to fly inside our house. I shooed it back outside (they seem fairly smart and don’t divebomb windows in panic like some birds) and waited for news. Thankfully I didn’t receive any news of death.

The fantail is a cute bird, but I do prefer to see them outdoors!

Have you had birds fly inside your house before?


  1. Maria Perry Mohan

    They are beautiful photos. Don’t mind the old superstitions. The more you think of them, the more power you give them. Just be positive and happy and all shall be well.

    • Shelley Munro

      That’s true. I just don’t like birds getting too close to my person. I like to enjoy them from afar!

  2. Mary Kirkland

    Those are great pictures of that bird. I don’t give much credence to superstitions but I’ve only ever had a bird fly into my house once and the pigeon was hurt. I was living in West Virginia at the time and the bird was walking around outside my door and when I opened the door he just walked right in. I saw his wing was bleeding and called a vet but they wouldn’t help because he was a wild bird so I took him to the ranch down the street and the lady helped me bandage his wing and I fed him for 2 weeks while his wing healed. She took the bandage off and after about two hours outside with me, he flew off.

    • Shelley Munro

      That’s great, Mary. I’m glad your pigeon got better. We don’t see many pigeons where we live, although there are a few doves around the place.

  3. Jennifer Shirk

    Ugh, yeah. I prefer birds outside too.

    No, never had a bird in the house. A bat…yes. In my friend’s house. :(

    • Shelley Munro

      Ugh, a bat would be much worse!!
      We have native bats here in New Zealand, but I’ve never seen one. In Australia they are everywhere.

  4. Maria Zannini

    Even if the superstition isn’t true, it still makes you uncomfortable–just in case.

    We heard what sounded like walking and scraping coming from the upstairs of an old house we once owned. We’d been out all day so we suspected prowlers.

    Greg went up there, gun loaded. All of a sudden I heard all this yelling and cursing and feared the worst. After a few minutes Greg comes walking downstairs, wiping the sweat off his brow.

    It turned out to be pigeon who had flown into an open window. He said the bird startled him so much he almost shot it out of spite.

    • Shelley Munro

      LOL – that would have scared me silly too. When we were kids a possum got down our chimney. There was soot everywhere. For ages after that I kept away from the fireplace in case a possum popped out.

  5. Heather

    Oh, what a cute little bird. Love the tail! I’ve never had a bird get inside my apartment, but we have had them get inside the workplace a few times.

    • Shelley Munro

      Fantails are really cute. They make these very cool nests – very tightly bound and round.

      I was in a McDonald’s cafe today and they had sparrows inside.