LOCAL TREAT: The rufous fantail feeding its young.
LOCAL TREAT: The rufous fantail feeding its young. Vic Jakes

A real fan of Noosa's colourful 'flitting'

I ALWAYS get the most uplifting feeling when I see this delightful and active little bird flitting and foraging in the shaded forest undergrowth.

The rufous fantail, Rhipidura rufifrons is an insectivorous bird of the same family as the much more familiar willie wagtail and the grey fantail.

It is by far the most colourful of the fantails and, whilst it is similar in size, shape and behaviour to the grey fantail, it can be easily distinguished by the bright chestnut rump and 'eyebrows', which, coupled with the white throat and black band on its chest, make it a most handsome bird.

The rufous fantail can live for up to nine years and is relatively common. There are 18 recognised subspecies and it is widespread throughout parts of south-east Asia, being found in New Guinea, Indonesia, Micronesia, the Soloman Islands, Sulawesi and even as far away as Guam.

Here in Australia, it may be seen in a broad coastal band from the Northern Territory, through Queensland and right down to South Australia. It is, however, strongly migratory and winter will see it move northwards to warmer climes. However, in the Noosa area, birds may be seen most of the year as the migration northwards of our breeding birds sees them replaced by birds from the south.

At this time of year many of the established pairs, believed to be monogamous, are already well advanced in producing this year's brood. They will have carefully constructed one of the neatest nests to be found in the whole of the bird world. It is a small and very compact cup with fine grasses neatly bound together with cobwebs.

The nests are built by both birds along a near-horizontal thin branch of the chosen tree, often only a relative sapling. Most, but not all, nests have a trailing stem which possibly acts as a counter-weight to the main portion of the nest standing above the branch.

It is in this superb and flexible structure that two or three pale cream eggs, blotched with brown at the wider end, are laid.

These will be incubated by both of the parents and after around fifteen days the tiny eggs will hatch. With diligent feeding of insects, again by both parent birds, the youngsters will grow rapidly.

Here you can see one of the parents taking its turn to feed the, now well developed, chicks which will fledge and leave the nest after an incredibly short period of eleven or twelve days. After this, the youngsters will stay close to the nest for several days, each being cared for by a parent bird.

They will gradually learn to fend for themselves and should become fully independent after four or five weeks. The parents may well decide to raise a further brood if the nest still remains sufficiently robust.

How blessed we are to have such delightful and friendly little birds as our neighbours.

Keep an eye out for them as you wander through the headland section of Noosa National Park and other local areas of moist and shaded woodland.

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