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Willie wagtail

Rhipidura leucophrys
Photo by Jason Girvan (Animal Pictures Archive)

Common name:
willie wagtail (en); cauda-de-leque-de-garganta-preta (pt); rhipidure hochequeue (fr); abanico lavandera (es)gartenfächerschwanz (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Rhipiduridae

This species is found throughout mainland Australia, and also in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Moluccas.

These birds are 18-22 cm long and weigh 20 g.

These birds are mostly found in open woodlands and forests, but also in scrublands, second growths, areas along rivers, bogs and marshes, in plantations and urban areas.

They mostly catch insects by hawking from low branches or fences, but also glean insects from foliage and collect soil invertebrates. They are known to eat butterflies, moths, flies, gnats, beetles, dragonflies, bugs, spiders, centipedes, and millipedes, and have been recorded killing small lizards such as skinks and geckos.

Willie wagtails can breed all year round, but with a peak in August-February. The nest is a neatly woven cup of grasses, covered with spider webs on the outside and lined internally with soft grasses, hair or fur. The nest is placed in an horizontal branch or similar structure. The female lays 2-4 pale cream eggs with brownish markings, which are incubated by both sexes for 14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 14 days after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is reported to be common to very common. The population is suspected to be increasing as ongoing habitat degradation is creating new areas of suitable habitat.

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