Crazily Friendly Fantails

We’ve had some beaut weather so I spent time sitting in a paddock checking which birds were visiting a flowering bottlebrush; there were Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebirds, New Holland Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills, White-naped Honeyeaters and Silvereyes. It was great to see so many birds coming and going but it was the Grey Fantails that I photographed as they perched nearby and flew so close to me that their soft wings brushed my arm.


Grey Fantail - Kim Wormald

Grey Fantail
Canon 5DIII, 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 800, focal length 560mm


There seemed to be three or four fantails taking turns to work the area next to the bottlebrush. They perched on fencing wire or the bare branches overhanging the fence and flitted back and forth, darting out to take insects from the air with an audible snap of their bills. They flew beside me, around me and took bugs from the grass at my feet – a perfect symbiotic relationship.



Grey Fantail - Kim Wormald (2)

Grey Fantail
Canon 5DIII, 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1600, focal length 560mm


They occasionally paused to sing their lilting song and a more distant fantail would call in reply as they touched base with each other before continuing to hunt. The lighting wasn’t on my side as the density of cloud cover kept changing and I had to keep altering the camera settings. Ideally I’d have liked to use a faster shutter speed, a lower ISO and an f/stop of 6.3 or 7.1 to help freeze their frenetic movement, reduce noise and to give a greater depth of field but I was able to capture their poses and details of their feathers, wing bars, facial markings and the bristly feathers around their bills that help them catch insects while also providing protection from insect bites.


Grey Fantail 3 - Kim Wormald

Grey Fantail
Canon 5DIII, 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1600, focal length 560mm


At least one of the fantails was a juvenile sporting brownish feathers but it was just as acrobatic and adept at catching insects as the adult birds. In the past I’ve watched the hilarious misjudgments of juveniles learning to catch insects in flight. I documented (ethically) the development of those Grey Fantail nestlings in Grey Fantails in an Egg Cup

Following on from last week’s post about bokeh and backgrounds this week’s images were taken from the same spot but with the birds in different places in front of me. The backgrounds include paddock grass, a pile of fallen branches, a pile of recently pruned branches, and distant bushland trees, predominantly prickly tea-tree.


Grey Fantail 4 - Kim Wormald

Grey Fantail
Canon 5DIII, 1/800, f/5.6, ISO 1600, focal length 560mm


I’d like to have seen the iridescent bug in this bird’s bill before it was caught. The fantails caught all kinds of brightly coloured critters, sometimes they held several in their bill before flying towards the prickly tea tree where I presume there was a nest or newly fledged juveniles sitting on a branch.

It was beautiful to sit as these tiny, 15cm/9g, fantails darted around me and somehow knew that it was safe to be so close.

Happy birding, Kim


PS  thank you for the wonderful feedback on Wedge-tailed Eagle and my apologies that comments were temporarily unavailable, which meant the eagles didn’t make it to the favourite’s list despite their popularity, maybe they’ll get there one day!


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