Willie Wagtail Yoshihiro Tada/ClimateWatch user

Willie Wagtail

Did You Know?

  • Average weight 18 grams
  • It is the largest and most well-known of the Australian fantails
  • It may re-use its nest from the previous year, or destroy the old nest and re-use the materials to build a new nest
  • It actively defends its territory, even behaving aggressively toward birds and animals much larger than itself
FactBox Image

One of Australia's most widespread birds on mainland.Mostly black with a white belly and eyebrow.  A young bird has paler, slightly rusty edges to its wing feathers.


18 - 22 cm long (from head to tail)



Whistled notes which can be interpreted as "sweet-pretty-creature"; also harsh chattering.


Small insects and animals that live on, or just under, the surface of the ground, including grasshoppers, scarab beetles, insect larvae, frogs and small lizards. During the day it walks along jabbing its beak into the ground, searching for food.


Agile and twisting. It is usually seen alone or in pairs, although in winter it may join a flock, often with other species.


It's nest is a neat cup of grasses covered with spider's web on the outside and lined with soft grasses, hair and fur. Three cream eggs, speckled with grey and brown, are incubated for 14 days by both parents. The young birds spend about 14 days in the nest then are driven away when the next clutch starts to hatch. In favourable conditions there may be four successive clutches in a season.

Field Guide

Improve your identification skills. Download your Willie wagtail field guide here!

Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • Courting/Mating

  • Nesting

  • Calling

  • Feeding

  • Bird with chicks

  • Bird on eggs

  • Bird in nest

  • Bird feeding begging young

Climate Adaptations

Warmer weather due to climate change may potentially extend the breeding season of Willie Wagtails by allowing them to start breeding earlier and continue until later in the year.

Species: WhenAndWhere Image

When and Where

When To Look

  • Usually nests from August to February, although it can nest year round
  • Eggs hatch about 14 days after being laid
  • Young birds leave the nest when they are 14 days old

Where To Look

  • Throughout mainland Australia, but not usually in Tasmania
  • In most open habitats, especially forests and woodlands, and common in urban areas
  • Not found in wet forests or rainforests
  • Its nest is built on a horizontal tree branch or other similar structure
Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

Any other black-and-white fantail or flycatcher generally won't have the black throat and white eyebrows.

Similar Species

Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) has a black head crest which makes it look more angular, and lacks the white eyebrow. Its chin and throat are white, instead of black, and its tail is less rounded and doesn't wag.