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New Zealand Fantail - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by the late Rookery
Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, 25 June 2015
Rhipidura fuliginosa


Photo © by the late Rookery
Havelock North, New Zealand, 4 June 2013

14–17 cm (5½-6¾ in)
There are two colour morphs
Pied Morph

  • Dark olive brown head and back
  • White tail
  • Yellow stomach
  • White splashes on neck and above the eye
  • Long spread tail makes identification very easy

Juveniles mostly brownish-black bodies, they lack the white eyebrows, and breast bands
Black Morph (rarely seen on North Island)

  • Almost entirely black
  • Blackish-brown over the rump, belly and flight feathers
  • Occasionally they have a white spot over each ear
  • Black morph fantails never have white on their tail feathers

Juvenile black fantails tend to be more dark brown than black


New Zealand


Formerly lumped with Grey Fantail and/or the Mangrove Fantail. The three form a superspecies.


Nominate subspecies, Black morph
Photo © by C Chad
Preservation Inlet, Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand, 29 April 2018

There are 4 subspecies[1]:

  • R. f. fuliginosa:
  • R. f. placabilis:
  • R. f. penita:
  • Chatham Islands
  • R. f. cervina:
  • Formerly Lord Howe Island Extinct


A variety of woodlands, parks, gardens and forests.



Photo © by the late Rookery
Havelock North, New Zealand, 17 February 2009

Often fans tail broadly, and does a little dance on the forest floor.


Their diet mostly consists of flying insects such as beetles, flies, butterflies and moths, but also fruit and berries.


A compact, cup shaped nest is built out of fibres, moss and bark lined with cobwebs. Incubation takes 15 days. Four or five broods are common.


Subspecies fuliginosa
Photo © by craigwilson
Waitati, New Zealand, 6 June 2017
  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Boles, W. (2017). New Zealand Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/59146 on 20 March 2017).
  3. Higgins,P.J.; Peter, J.M.; Cowling, S.J. (eds) 2006. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 7, boatbill to starlings. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  4. Powlesland, R.G. 2013 [updated 2017]. New Zealand fantail. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.