Restless Flycatcher

The Restless Flycatcher would have to be one of my favourite Australian birds. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is the clean, beautiful lines of its plumage. Perhaps it’s the quite distinctive calls, the harsh “zeeep” contact call or the fascinating grinding, churring sounds it makes when hunting for a feed. Or perhaps it is the vernacular name of “scissors grinder” that really appeals to me. Whatever the reason, it is always a delight to see and hear.

Restless Flycatcher

Restless Flycatcher

The Restless Flycatcher can easily be mistaken for a Willie Wagtail. Unlike the Willie Wagtail this species has a white throat, not black. The call is quite unlike the Willie Wagtail but the habits are similar with both flitting about seeking a feed, tail wagging all the time.


The Willie Wagtail is found throughout most of Australia. The Restless Flycatcher on the other hand is widespread through northern, eastern and southern Australia and tends to avoid the hotter, drier inland regions. Where I live in the Murray Mallee districts of South Australia it is widespread but nowhere common.


The Restless Flycatcher is found in a variety of habitats, including parks and gardens, farmlands near vegetation, roadside verges, open woodlands and forests, mallee scrubs, golfcourses and orchards.

Our garden:

We have a resident pair of breeding Willie Wagtails in our garden. I have seen the Restless Flycatcher in a number of places around my home town but only once have we seen it in our garden until recently. The first time was about five years ago and a single bird passed through the garden one morning. It stayed less than two minutes. I happened to be having breakfast and heard its distinctive call and quickly raced out to see it fast disappearing down the road.

Until last week.

This time I was working at my computer in the office trying to concentrate on my writing. A sudden, harsh “zeeep” call and I was racing out with my camera in hand. (It was on the desk alongside of me after downloading some photos of Galahs.) Sure enough, a single Restless Flycatcher was at the birdbath and it posed for me for about ten seconds. (Pity about the twig of the branch in the way.) It was having a confrontation with the resident, bossy Willie Wagtail who didn’t want to share the water. After a few seconds it flew off into the nearby mallee scrub. I tried to track it down and found there were two of them. I gave up as they flew off over the neighbour’s house.

To read more about Flycatchers click here.

Restless Flycatcher

Restless Flycatcher


4 Responses to “Restless Flycatcher”

  1. […] find it exciting to see a bird I haven’t seen for some time, like the Restless Flycatcher that came to visit our garden […]

  2. jussi says:

    I remember the “scissor-grinding” call to be a pre-curser to summer as a child….definitely a fascinating bird.

    I also found them to be quite solitary…and sit for hours calling from exposed telegraph wires.

    I saw a pair along the Broken River near Mooroopna, VIC last year…first time i’d seen them in maybe 15 years.

  3. Trevor says:

    We always delight in seeing this lovely bird. It was therefore a double delight to have one visit our garden. It only stayed a few days, unfortunately, so I hope it finds its way back someday.

    Thanks for the comments.

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