Great Birding Moments #4 Willie Wagtail
The Willie Wagtail is a resident of our garden here in Murray Bridge. Our house is situated amongst 5 acres (2 hectares) of a mixture of garden plants, orchard, mallee scrub (mallee is a species of eucalypt) and open paddock.
Our resident Willie Wagtails seem to be rather camera shy. I’ve been trying for many months to get a good photo of this species here at home. Whenever I’d try to get close enough they’d be high in the foliage of the tree – or behind a bush – or they’d flit away before I could focus. Eventually I did manage to get a nice shot; the bird is good but the setting is horrible. I wish there was some way of masking out the rubbishy looking drum it has perched on. And look at all those weeds in the background!
The Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys, a member of the flycatcher family of birds, is one of Australia’s best known and well-loved birds. They are common throughout Australia and northern Tasmania. They are easily recognised as they flit around looking for a feed, tail wagging and fanning out disturbing insects. “Our” Willie Wagtails are a resident breeding pair. They usually have at least one and sometimes two broods each year, usually in spring and summer.
The nest is a cup-shaped bowl about 5-6cm wide and deep. It is usually made from cobwebs, fine grass, feathers, wool, bark and other soft materials. It can be situated as low as a metre from the ground to 10 or even 15 metres high up in a tree. It is often located on horizontal branch but I have seen nests made on a metal strut inside a farm shed. They most often lay 2 or 3 eggs, but occasionally lay 4. To see four almost fledged baby Willie Wagtails in a small nest all reaching out to mum or dad begging for food, one wonders how the nest survives – and how they don’t topple out! The nest seems just right for one baby – three or four is definitely overcrowded. The interesting thing about “our” WWs is that they always nest very close to the house, usually within 15 metres.