Fantail: Friendly forest ballerina

Our fantail is one of the friendliest birds in the forest.

Become fluent in fantail

You can whistle your way into a friendship with a fantail by learning to talk like them. Fantails speak using a high-pitched sound. It is sort of like a kissing sound. You can create this sound by puckering your lips together, putting your finger in-between your lips and sucking in lightly.

The reason? When you walk you disturb lots of insects and our fantail loves eating insects. They don’t just follow humans though, they’ve been known to tail silvereyes, parakeets, whiteheads and saddlebacks.

Fantails need to be good at catching insects because each summer they raise three or four families, each with three or four chicks. It is hard work.

The chicks are fed every 10 minutes, which is more than 100 times a day! No wonder baby fantails grow fast.

Fifteen days after hatching blind and naked, the chicks have grown feathers and are ready to leave the nest.


Cats, rats, stoats and mynas are the fantails' enemies. Although they produce a lot of eggs and chicks, only a few will survive and grow up.

Fantails don’t live that long – the oldest fantail found is New Zealand was only three years old! The way they survive is by having lots of babies, and by tricking predators.

If a predator comes near to their nest, the female will pretend to be injured in order to lure it away. Meanwhile the male will attack the enemy.

Master Builder

Fantails are great architects and even better builders. They will create their cup-like nest from fibres, moss, bark and sometimes line it with cobwebs.

Fast facts

  • Fantails mostly live on forest edges and in scrub habitats. They can often be seen in town in parks and gardens,
  • Fantails are found almost everywhere in New Zealand. The only place they can’t be found is in Central Otago and Inland Marlborough, because it’s too frosty.
  • Fantails will usually be seen alone or in pairs during summer, but will often form flocks during the winter.
  • Fantails occasionally eat fruit, insects and berries, but they mostly eat insects.
  • Fantails are very good at catching insects in the air - they can change direction very quickly when they are flying.
  • New Zealand fantails are part of a larger fantail family. Fantails can be found in Indonesia, Samoa, Pakistan and Australia.
  • Our fantails main predator is rats.