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  1. 48 Photo by Julian Robinson
  2. 48_0 Photo by Chris Tate
  3. 48_1 Eggs in nest photo by William Archer
  4. 48_2 Chicks in nest photo by William Archer
  5. 48_3 Willie Wagtail feeding chicks photo by Oliver Bradshaw
  6. Willie_wagtail_juveniles_by_peter_feats-cropped Chicks in nest by Peter Feats
  7. Willie_wagtail_feeding_by_peter_feats-cropped Mother feeding chicks in nest by Peter Feats

Willie Wagtail

Rhipidura leucophrys


  • ColourMostly black with a white belly and eyebrow. A young bird has paler, slightly rusty edges to its wing feathers.
  • Size18 - 22 cm long (from head to tail).


  • CallWhistled notes which can be interpreted as "sweet-pretty-creature"; also harsh chattering.
  • MovementAgile and twisting. It is usually seen alone or in pairs, although in winter it may join a flock, often with other species.
  • BreedingIt'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.

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Nesting (and, if possible: bird in nest, bird on eggs, bird with chicks, bird feeding begging chicks).

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

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

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 it is common in urban areas. It is not usually found in wet forests or rainforests.
  • Its nest is usually built on a horizontal tree branch or other similar structure.

Willie Wagtail occurrence - ALA labelled



Boles WE 1988. The Robins and Flycatchers of Australia. Angus and Robertson and The National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.

Higgins PJ, Peter JM & Cowling SJ (eds) 2006. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Vol. 7, Part A. (Boatbill to Larks). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Morcombe M 2000. Field Guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing Pty Ltd, Archerfield, Qld.

Pizzey G & Knight F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Schodde R & Tidemann SC (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.


  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    • 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.
    • Any other black-and-white fantail or flycatcher generally won't have the black throat and white eyebrows.
  1. Did You Know?

    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.

    It is the largest and most well-known of the Australian fantails.

    Its average weight is 18 grams.


  1. Listen to the Call