Harsh weather not kind to fantails

The fantail does not cope very well in harsh winters as, being so small and fragile, they can not...
The fantail does not cope very well in harsh winters as, being so small and fragile, they can not survive harsh frosts. Photo: Clive Collins
Tanya Jenkins is the manager of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust, a non-profit organisation formed in 2002 to protect one of New Zealand’s most important coastal wetlands. Each week she introduces a new bird found in the estuary. Her column aims to raise the understanding of the values and uniqueness of the area.

The fantail is surely one of the most well known and loved birds. Who does not enjoy watching this tiny bird with its distinctive fanned tail, happy chattering and curiosity causing it to come within arm’s reach?

You may have even been lucky enough to have seen a black fantail, which only make up five per cent of the fantails. Don’t let them scare you when you do see one, it really is only a myth when you hear that they are harbingers of bad luck.

Both male and female share the task of incubating the eggs but as soon as they hatch the female will leave it up to the male to feed the chicks, as she will leave to start building another nest for the next clutch of eggs.

Tanya Jenkins. Photo: Supplied
Tanya Jenkins. Photo: Supplied
When the chicks from the first nest can fend for themselves the male will find her and share incubation, followed by feeding the chicks and so on and so on. They can nest up to four times every season.

Note that the male will need to feed the chicks every 10min, so he is kept super busy doing this feeding by himself. Those nests by the way are super-soft, comfy and cleverly constructed using moss, rotten wood fibres, hair, dried grass and woven together with cobwebs.

The fantail does not cope very well in harsh winters as unfortunately, being so small and fragile they can not survive harsh frosts. For this reason, don’t be surprised if on a frosty day you open your woodshed or garage to find fantails sheltering from the cold.

How can we help the fantail to thrive? Controlling rats in your garden as they are the key predator of the fantail.

During winter hang or place a shallow bowl in a tree with sugary water to give them extra energy. As they only eat insects they will not feed from your birdseed feeder.








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