Willie Wagtails calling at night
I recently had a comment from a reader about Willie Wagtails calling at night. This reader and his wife were constantly being woken at night by the loud calling of a Willie Wagtail in the tree outside their bedroom window. It seems that this was driving them crazy and wanted to know if I’d heard of this happening before, and what can be done about it.
This calling is known as the bird’s nocturnal song. Other Australian species, like the Magpie, also call nocturnally. It is a widespread and commonly observed action and is well documented in the literature and from studies of these species. There is quite a lengthy discussion on this in HANZAB (Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds) which forms the basis of what I have to say on this matter.
The nocturnal call of the Willie Wagtail is most commonly heard during moonlit nights and especially during the breeding season (August to February). From my own experience, the presence of a bright street light or car park lighting can also contribute to this phenomenon. Once started, the song can continue for lengthy periods, often stimulating other birds nearby to also call.
It is thought that the nocturnal song in Willie Wagtails is used to maintain its territory. During the night there is no need for parental duties such as feeding the young or protecting the nest, so the song can be used to consolidate the territory. Sound tends to carry further at night and there are fewer sounds in competition and this adds to its effectiveness. It has been found that most nocturnal songs are from a roosting bird some distance away from the nest.
Unfortunately for my reader there is no easy solution I know of for this problem. Moving to sleep in a room in a different part of the house may minimise the impact of the noise. Double glazed glass and better insulation may also help. Wearing ear plugs is another possible way out.
A change of attitude might help too. If a native bird is calling outside my bedroom window at 2am in the morning I can respond in several ways. I can get very agitated and annoyed and consequently will have a restless night. I could also take a more phlegmatic view and ignore it, not letting it get to me. I take the same approach when sleeping in an unfamiliar setting with plenty of traffic noise. One soon learns – by choice – to block out the noise, becoming accustomed to it. Or I can delight in the fact that this lovely little creature chooses to reside in MY garden. This positive feeling allows one to relax and get back to sleep.
My last suggestion didn’t work for us last summer. We had a Little Raven that would come at first light every morning and bang his thick, strong beak at his reflection in the glass of our bedroom window, calling raucously as he “attacked” this interloper. Being woken by such a noise about a metre from one’s sleeping head is not nice. Not nice at all. We were pleased when it stopped after about a month.
- Great Birding Moments #4: Willie Wagtails
I just love the sound of the Willie Wagtails calling at night. Long may they do so!
So do I Brenton – except when it is too close to the bedroom window or it goes on for too many hours!
Willie Wagtail and Boobook Owl calls at night are some of my happy childhood memories!
So John – you can remember back that far???
I’ve just checked my database of bird records – it has been over 20 years since we’ve recorded the Boobook here at home, though it is present throughout the area. We love hearing it when we stay at our daughter’s home in Clare in the mid-north.
thank you very much for the information and glad i inspired you to write the article, yes we found a solution,earplugs,but now being the end of januari(end of breeding seazon)the willy wagtail has seem to moved on.The NOT knowing why he did it or WHY was frustrating,so by knowing know the why it does make a difference…anyway keep up the good work. ps. now (as we called him)twiggie has moved on ironically my first born son keeps me awake,…but at least i know the “why”. Onces again thanks a lot and well done. regards also from my wife.
Tom and Lorena
ooh and by the way, your right, the tree the Willy wagtail was in is only 3 meters away from the streetlight. So i can almost with certainty say, or you can look more into it, that the WW thinks the streetlight is the full moon?…
*anecdote alert* It seems to have been a bumper season for willie wagtails here. I suspect it’s down to the huge number of flies this summer. The birds are living like kings!
Snail – only yesterday my wife commented that this summer has seen few flies thus far (try saying that last few words quickly with lips pursed to keep out the fries) over our way.
May it remain so – perhaps they have all migrated from this “backwater”* state to somewhere more salubrious!
(* the cheek of your premier a few days ago to call our capital a “backwater.”)
🙂 I heard a very entertaining link up between ABC local radio in Melb and Adelaide where they exchanged imaginative insults in the guise of debate.
Mind you, the biggest swarms of flies I’ve seen so far were between Portland and the border but I can’t remember if they were heading east or west!
Bother – I must have missed the segment of the programme. Our local boys Matthew and David cause plenty of political rumbles here in SA. It has got to the point where Premier Rann refuses to go on their programme – they are like a dog with a juicy bone – just try taking it from them though. They are often quoted in the other media – and even in parliament. They challenge many things – and sometimes get great results.
What is more – they are incredibly funny (read silly) at times. I usually only catch small segments of the show – haven’t got the time to listen to 3.5 hours of radio every day.
I think I have just found the answer to my question about what bird is singing at night. I have seen a pair of willy wagtails during the day dancing around our backyard….but I’m not sooooo keen on their singing right outside my bedroom. I shut the windows…but its pretty shrill. This is the first year we have had a pair around.
You are so right Brenda – they are beautiful songsters during the day – but incredibly annoying close by when one is trying to slumber.
Sounds like you birds could be a new pair who have just established a territory – right near to where you try to sleep. Great.
yes yes yes to all above.But for some this sound is torture.
I call it the Chinese water torture bird.
Now does anyone know a simple but effective deterrent?
For night time Shrilling?
There are plenty of other trees he can go live in!
If people like this sound the flaming thing can move on and they
can listen to its whistling all night and every night !
I have nothing personal against birds just that this one
is SSSSO noisey.It absolutely goes right through earplugs
They sound nice about a kilometer away..
I have also had a problem with the willie wagtail. We have one nesting outside our house in a tree, and all night and all morning it will sing very loudly. Although the sound can be somewhat pretty, it can get very irritating. Thankyou for letting me know why it is causing this problem.
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Georgia.
I have only just found out what little bird was singing all night & I’m so pleased. The song is lovely & he can sing all he likes
I agree Bernie – unless it chooses to sing right outside my bedroom window at 3am!
I for one can’t stand willie wagtails. They are very aggressive and harass very single life form in their territory. Whenever some interesting bird comes along, like a raven or a kookaburra, it is soon followed by our resident back yard bully, the wagtail. And it also serves as an alarm clock set at 5am, without a snooze button.
HI there Vince.
I’m sorry to hear that your local Willie Wagtails constantly wake you too early. I love the WW, but if it woke up that early every morning I’m sure I’d be cranky too.
As for the WW being a back yard bully, I suspect that he is just defending his nest or young ones from the ravens or kookaburras, both of which will think nothing of raiding the nest for eggs or babies. Currawongs, magpies and butcherbirds will also prey upon WWs.
Hi Trevor, thanks for your reply. I only read it very late. I did not know all those species you mentioned actually raid the WW’s nest. I always wondered: why is it so aggressive toward so many species, I had no idea they are all potential enemies. Especially the kookaburra, it looks and sounds so cheery. Thanks again, it will help me appreciate them a little more.
Sept 5 2010. Canberra: Disaster! When pruning the Sacred Bamboo in our garden I found when about to put the branches through the mulcher a beautiful Willie Wagtail nest on one of the cuttings. This is the second winter we’ve had the birds come to our garden but we had no idea they were nesting – let alone in our garden.
When is the breeding time in Canberra?
The nest had some small dry leaves propped inside so am hoping they have finished. One of the birds is still around the garden and was twittering away some 20 yards from me as I was moving the branches after cutting. Have tried to tie the branch with the nest back into the shrub but I am unable to get the nest sitting parallel to the ground. I have not touched the nest but of course have handled the branch.
Any advice other than to improve the nesting environment ready for next year?
Don’t despair. The WWs have just started nesting in most parts of Australia. Our resident pair have been making their nest today. Just leave the nest tied to the branch and they might make use of the materials in it for their nest nesting attempt. WWs and many of our small bird species can nest 3-5 times in one season, often using the same nest – or using the materials in a new home. They will lay 2-4 eggs for each nesting attempt. They can nest until as late as January or February.
So why aren’t our gardens over run with WWs? It’s a harsh world out there and of all those nests and eggs, perhaps only one or two will survive into adulthood.
Many eggs, nestlings and fledglings are taken by other birds – crows, ravens, magpies, currawongs, snakes, goannas etc. One species’ loss might mean the survival of another’s young. Sounds cruel to us – but that’s life in the raw out there.
cute birds. but their nocturnal call… ugh! i cant imagine anything more irritating! I also regularly move between two houses and i just cant seem to escape it! maybe im being stalked?!
They’re coming to get you, Chloe! LOL
I remember the birds nocturnal call when I was a kid… I was say its the seetest call of all.
These birds have always fascinated me and I love there boldness when it comes to pets in the yard.. they’re never afraid to have a go at them..
Ha saw this comment about the wagtail…found a solution I moved to
the UK LOL ..miss Australia sometimes but not that fricken bird…
For those of you who have the chance to visit the UK, have you noticed the British “Willy Wagtail” wags his tail opposite to the Autralian variety? Wagging up and down opposed to side to side. So far as night calls in the UK, I don’t think they do this.
Thanks for the article … now I know what bird is singing all night. I love the WW, and I wouldnt mind its singing so much if it werent for the fact it just repeats the same call over and over until the sun comes up. I love bird song, but the same repetitive call, hardly ever stopping to take a breather? It needs some variety ’cause it seems to have the same song stuck in its head and thats really annoying. :-\
Thanks for ALL the comments I have been told that our native wild life is protected and thats fine, what about humans being protected from the pesky little birds outside my house night after night, I have averaged 2 hours sleep per night in the last 10 days and am at the end of my tether. How will I explain to the authorities that I wasn’t protected from the noise and therefore sleep depriviation caused me to CRASH my car or de rail the train which is what my neighbour feels could happen to him if this bird continues its night time song… SONG more like a torture procedure they could use to interrogate undesirables
Completely agree with you! The noisy little bugger with the perpetual motion voicebox has earned himself the title of The Bastard Bird at our place. Earplugs make no difference for me – the noise is so shrill that it gets through anything, even earphones with my most boisterous Bach playing! Perhaps we have a new syndrome – WWSD – Willy Wagtail Sleep Deprivation. I’m going to start cracking a whip near him whenever I can in the hope that he’ll decide the neighbourhood is too rough and move on. Pray for me.
Hi Trevor and All,
Just thought I’d stop by, say “Hi” and “Thanks for the info.” (I found this interesting site when trying to find out why our WW decided to exercise its vocal chords ALL night…and yes it was a bright moon last night. (We’d noticed it before…but usually it just started up earlyish…like at sunrise. All through the night seemed a bit abberant.)
We feel honoured to have had willy wagtails share their garden with us (for nearly 30 years now.) Every year we have had one or two nests…most years with successful hatchings. 3 hatched from the last nesting (in Sept/Nov, and survived. Our willy wagtails seem to get on pretty well with the rest of the wildlife…although one year we did witness a crow stealing a chick out of a nest. (Sadly, the crows also sometimes attack and kill the baby possums.)
Cats are sometimes demonised for having a detrimental impact on birdlife and other native species, when really the most damage is from destruction of habitat and poor human attitudes towards other species and their rights to a place to live, too.
We have always had a resident cat…but the birds and cat seem to have come to some sort of agreement. Even when we had our cat out at night she (then he), never attacked our birds or our endangered western ringtail possums, who have also shared this habitat from well before a house was ever built here. (We kept our original peppy trees, in which the possums build their dreys/nests.)
Where we live…in the south west of Western Australia, our cats now have to be licenced and sterilized and there is a “cat curfew” wherein cats have to be kept in at night. As a cat lover I think it’s a brilliant idea and great for keeping our cats safe from overbreeding and fighting, as well as being good for noctural wildlife (that might be preyed upon by uncared for felines fending for themselves.)
Anyway, like most of you have mentioned …we too occassionally get a willy wagtail that insists on “singing” at odd hours – but we think it’s a small price to pay for the pleasure they bring and the good that they do.
p.s. For those who don’t like nature….there are always sterile environments and highrise buildings. Bon Voyage.
Thanks for your measured and sensible comments, Heidi.
[…] Trevor Hampel has an informative post on his blog Trevor’s Birding about wagtails calling at […]
Thank you for posting this. I have a mysterious (til I read this) bird chiping and singing away at night near my house at night and I have been wondering what it was! It wasn’t bothering me except for the fact that all the other birds are asleep and this one is up, singing! Now I know! Thank you, I hope to catch him one night!
yes thanks for the info. theyre calling at night at our house. we have really bright streetlights too.
I’m cautiously optimistic that I have found an easy solution to the problem of seriously interrupted sleep from WWs – when it starts to emit its shrill screech (sorry but I can’t interpret it as birdsong when it’s right next to my window), I fire a cap gun and the WW relocates. The cap gun is much easier than a whip as I don’t even have to get out of bed. As we live in the bush there are plenty of other places for the WWs to go so it’s not like I’m compromising their survival. I don’t mind if they’re down the paddock somewhere, just CANNOT take them up close.
So interesting the range of reactions to night calling willies. I have one that tweets all night every night and I love hearing it when I’m awake in the early hours with the baby.
Not so sure about street lights prompting their night singing. We used to live in an isolated area with no street or artificial lights and enjoyed their night singing for many years.
Our new suburb has some and as I still wake before daylight, their song greets me and tells me I’m alive.
Yes Ray – they will call at night when there are no street lights as this is our situation too. I think their night song in our little patch of scrub is probably more frequent on moonlit nights but that is a general statement not backed up by any research I’ve undertaken.
I do shift work so wear earplugs all the time. My most comfortable pair were custom molded from a kit, they are far more comfortable than foam ear plugs and don’t seem to wear out. It’s much less expensive than having your earplugs molded by a professional; I would definitely suggest them to anyone who uses them often.
The prettiest flute player ever!
I miss the sound of the Deereeree`s
Very.Haunting on a full moon.
WOW…My little friend is calling out as I write this post at 3am lol….We also have a street light directly outside the house…Its good to know that we have such a cute little friend so close:)
Thanks for this blog! We thought the birds were just going a bit crazy – but it make perfect sense!
I just thought I’d share a tidbit of info with you….
The Noongar (South West WA Indigenous people) name for the Willy Wagtail is Djiti Djiti, which means restless spirit or something that can’t stay still for too long… much better description of the personality of a Willy Wagtail!
Thanks Dot – Some years ago I spent a weekend staying with an Aboriginal family. The father had grown up in the Flinders Ranges and he fascinated me with the traditional names of birds – many of them names sounded exactly like the call of the bird.
I hate the noise they make at night so I think I will try the cap gun as well. I tried spraying the tree with water but I think the Willy Wagtail thinks it is bath time and comes back for more!!! They poo all over my letterbox all day and squeal all night…..I’ve had enough!! No offence to those that love them but with the shrilling sounds at intervals of every half hour all night I am ready to KILL the bird! Burn the tree down will be the next alternalive!
For the past 10 years I have noticed a bird calling at night. I have asked & asked but to no avail until now. Most people say owl or Koel but it didn’t sound that same. It’s taken me this long to find out what it is. Until last night I said to my daughter, it sounds like a willy wagtail! She said look it up on google & so I did. Thanks to this site, I now know what my little friend is & end to the torture of not knowing. Thank you!
I woiuld like to learn how to mentally ignore bird-calls during sleep. Is it simply a matter of mental focus that then transfers over to the subconscious?
Does it work for other loud noises, such as people shouting, trucks, or horns blaring?
We have a Willy Wag Tail that sings every night outside our bedroom window. We live in a quiet street with no street lamps. Just like getting used to traffic we don’t even hear it any more – until we had guests who couldn’t sleep because of it!
So glad I came across this blog. It explains why my boys have been kept awake for the last 2 weeks. The ww is outside their rooms. Have been listening as I read your thoughts and just as ww had seemed to finish for the night. .. the motor bike frogs start up. Gotta love mother nature. What a sense of humour.
I have one willy wagtail building a nest, occasioally, in the apricot tree. Whilst it is great to hear and see I am wondering –
1. Why has only one bird been sighted?
2. Why is the nest building so intermittent – never in bad weather and only every 2nd or third day in good times? Is it a real nest, or maybe a decoy nest?
Any anwers please.
This is quite puzzling. The fact that there is only one bird could be because it is a young immature bird which has not yet formed a pair bonding with another bird or that the partner has be taken by a bird of prey.
The intermittent nest building could be just practice, especially if it is an immature bird – though I have not observed this myself.
hi margaret glad you like the sound of them you can come and get mine and put it in your tree
The wagtail in the tree outside my house is unstoppable. Hose failed. Cap gun failed. Throwing large objects at it failed. I tried shining a 500w light directly into the tree all nigh. Failed. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over a month. I feel like Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven. Someone help before I descend into madness…
And the wagtail, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the twisted mass of branches just beyond my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the moon-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
I love on these coolish Perth nights sitting outside listening to WW sing. Bliss!
we know how you feel michael we dont get any sleep in summer when these m~~~~~~l things are around some poeple might be sound sleepers but not all of us are, my mrs is a sound sleeper but the b~~~~y thing still wakes her, i would still ring its neck if i could catch it. ok trevor ive had my say so you can wipe me off again seeing i disagree with what you say
Does a Willie wagtail sleep and when we have one and he calls through the night. We love our Willie.
whats going on we had 2 of these m—–l things outside our window last night. would be great to catch them i guarantee they wont be back
you have to love the rain it greens your grass great for the garden and gets rid of those noisy wagtails. hope it rains for the next year; HAPPY DAYS
[…] Willie Wagtails calling at night […]
We have had a pair of WW who have raised three lots young (7)
We love our WW who love to share out morning and after noon teas
They do not annoy us by calling at night they only call when they would like a feed of worms.
We love our Willies.
I have one in a tree in my back yard that calls from 8.30/9pm at night, anywhere up to from sunrise to 8/9am. Cant sleep thru the night with it constantly chirping 🙁
It is also in a VERY dark corner of the yard, and there is only a sliver of the moon out too. I wish my cat would eat it so i can sleep again. Theres so many trees and bushland around for it to nest in, and Im going to see about having it relocated by a qualified wildlife carer too
Oh no I have moved back to Australia this time South Australia and they are here too …LOL. As far as I can tell these birds go for it at night because its all do do with mating season I think??
Anyway I cant hear one near me.YES!! I did at another place I was staying near the beach but It must have been 20 Suburbs away other side of the airport I guess. Must have been miles away you can hear em for miles and miles and miles etc and repeat.
Its a protected bird. Who invented that rule ? we have kangaroo culls
I don’t get it really don’t ..
Good Night all tweet a tweet a tweeeeet a tweeeeeet
We have a Willie Wagtail in our garden, I love listening to him and often leave the doors on so I can listen to him.
I have no idea what bird I have outside my window I live in Mackay and have had for the past month a bird singing flat out every night from approx 9pm – 3am what is wrong with this bird??? Okay I’ve read all the posts please tell me this bird will eventually fly off and nest somewhere far far away? Can you actually relocate these birds? Desperate tired and now still awake
Sorry for the delay in replying to your questions.
Birds calling at night can be very annoying, I agree, especially the piercing call of a Willie Wagtail for example, and I’m sorry for your loss of sleep.
I’m not aware of the council laws in your area, but I doubt if the general public are allowed to relocate a bird. Check with the council because they may have a wildlife officer or some such who can attend to this. The problem with relocation is that another bird can easily come into your garden, replacing the annoying one, and then we start all over.
Hope you get some sleep soon – have you tried ear plugs?
Ps I’m not a bird hater however if a cat managed to get it I wouldn’t mind at this stage.
Anyone who says the WWT’s call is nice is [comment deleted by moderator]. It is the most unbelievably repetitive and annoying environmental sound I have been subjected to. I can only pray a large nocturnal python destroys it soon.
I acknowledge your annoyance at the sound of WWTs calling. I find the call of cicadas much worse, and even the normally pleasant call of a kookaburra grates on the nerves at 4:30am.
Please note that I have edited your comment. As owner of this site I reserve the right to edit, modify or even delete abusive or inappropriate comments. By all means express your opinions, but keep them civil. See http://trevorsbirding.com/copyright/
Someone once told me that If you buy a plastic owl and put it on top of your roof.. Apparently it scares off most non predatory birds ..But wouldn’t recommend doing this at night as you may fall off the roof etc
Im sure your neighbours wouldn’t appreciate all the muttering and swearing that probably go with such a commando like procedure at 4 Am …
Its October again….
Thanks for the comments Dean. I have seen quite a few plastic owls on roofs around where I live. I think people have mixed results from doing so. It may work short term as a deterrent but the scare factor probably wears off after a while. I’ve actually seen birds happily perched on the owls. Changing its position regularly may work for a time, but the inconvenience would be a challenge, not to mention the dangers of getting on the roof, as you point out.
Thank you I finally have the answer to the question of sleep deprivation for about 4 weeks now. None of my friends would believe me when I said it was a Willy!! Our particular friend sometimes goes all night and the repetitive nature of the call is driving me insane!!! We have a family of Willys that have lived in our garden for a number of years without the nocturnal calls could this be a new one trying to move in? We live in a very quiet street and the sound echoes around an yes the tree in question is right near a street light.
I have developed a nocturnal habit of my own. A short sharp blast with the hose usually moves him on for a few hours. The calls usually stops at daylight when all the other less harsh bird calls begin. I love the Willys but sleep deprivation is ruling my life!!! One night he went all night (that was before nocturnal hosing came into my life!!) Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated?!?!?
Sorry – I have no other suggestions for you. Your water treatment is probably about all you can do without harming the bird in question.
I agree with you Trevor, they are just being normal Willys. It’s 5am & I’m listening to his call as well as the other birds beginning to wake, what a lovely sound. My husband & I often wondered why we heard them calling in the night but not all year around. Very interesting. We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful country.If only we could get rid of the cane toads!!
Thank you for this wonderful article. It has helped me identify the gorgeous little bird who sings at night – all night. Unlike others I’ve not had my sleep interrupted, but rather have found the bird’s nocturnal song soothing and rather refreshing. I’m so glad I now know it’s a Willie Wagtail singing me to sleep and greeting me each morning.
Thank you for your kind words Clare. You have proved to me that it is all in one’s attitude. I love to hear their calls at any time.
This reminds me of an occasion when we were camping in a national park. My wife got very annoyed that someone was using a generator in the park – strictly forbidden. Her attitude totally changed when we found a Tawny Frogmouth roosting above our tent next morning. Every night after that the frogmouth’s “oom oom oom” call lulled us off to sleep.
That’s pretty funny – my husband and I had a good chuckle at your wife’s expense. And I could not agree more – the ‘right’ attitude makes all the difference.
[…] bird that’s been singing us to sleep each night was a Willy Wagtail. Thanx to Trevor at Trevor’s Birding, I now know the Willy Wagtail’s nocturnal song is used to maintain its territory and is more […]
YAY!! Thank you Trevor, great article. So happy to finally know what bird it is that is keeping us all awake at night. I thought it was over as it has been quite for the past few months, but it just started up again a week ago….every night from 11pm to around 3am. I can’t believe this tiny bird is so loud. When you stand outside it sounds like it’s singing through a loudspeaker. And yes, it is in the tree right outside my son’s window, and just a few feet away from the street light.
It’s not just me i thought there was something wrong with me I have two Willie wagtails that live in the tree right next to our bedroom window one difference is these two little buggers start at 4:30am every morning and don’t stop until 7:30am 8:00am when I should be waking up at I’ve never had a problem with birds singing before never thought about it but these 2 are driving me insane I just can’t get enough sleep the noises they make can’t be ignored I’ve tried earplugs with pillows on top nothing works and that constant repeating over and over my eyes are hanging out of my head bloodshot this little birdy as cute as it is comes from hell when your sleeping,I’m glad I’m not the only one living through this. August to Feb is spot on this is our second year living here don’t think I can go through another one haha
Thank you for the explanation. I’ve noticed a Willie calling at night and fortunately, it’s a lovely and reassuring sound for me in the distance.
So thankful to find who my night time caller was and why. I for the most part love being surrounded by bird song and keep a few birds for this very reason. Was just finding the 2am song a little rude!
For the record, I live on a street with no street lights so really the Willy Wagtail could not use this an excuse for his night time singing!
Hi Vicki – the Willie wagtails often call at night when there is a bright light. They would be out looking for night insects such as moths.
It’s some years since this dialogue was last conducted (2016) but I’ve been searching for what this night bird song might be. Is it really a Willy Wagtail? This is another blogger’s recording of the same sound. Ours is in trees in a leafy suburban Perth park and there appears to be an echo of another bird some distance away:
Can anyone please confirm?
Yes Bronte – this sound clip is of a Willie wagtail calling at night. It is a common occurrence, especially on moonlit nights or near bright lights.
YES willy wags tails call at night and will go all night, till morning. Though the day they loose that call and go to a more chirping sound. It took me 2 years to actually see one calling in a cotton candy tree only 2m from ground around 12 am. They will call every night, and it looks like in all cases it is a single willy and has no nest. They seen to be more active at making this noise at night, not due to moon light but rather in a dry spell. Maybe as the wag tail makes its nest out of mud, near my dams in trees like a small tea cup.
Also in most cases you can hear others call back in responce, and they do move off to different sights, trees, eg one night in gum, pepper tree the next night, taking differnt trees in yard at differnt nights. Moon has no affect on call. When they are nesting in a pair they will not make that night call either. Their mud nests down in paddocks near dam never produce the night call. Niether did they pair at eye level in a meliuca tree out the front when nest was eye level. Plus they must also migrate around November to june around here as they are not seen or heard. 2 REASONS i believe, 1. Looking for a mate. 2. most likey night watch, protecting their nest and young by a warning system, and deversions for prey. If you listen on a very quite night you can hear them calling back in several locations. TIP they will stop calling if shine a light on, but only for a short time before start up again.
SEQ beaudesert area, hope that helps trever, call hear they make is slightly different than vic one as well. And only bad thing about the call is when they stop,
Thanks for visiting and for leaving comments about Willie Wagtails and their calls. However, I was quite confused by your comments about them making mud nests. Willie wagtails use cobwebs, grass and animal fur for their nests – never mud. Are you confusing them with another kind of bird? For more information, check out http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Rhipidura-leucophrys
Yes have seen both nests, one near house was sticks, but i also have 2 sizes of mud nest like a tea cup, they are on a horizontal branch, on la4ge gum trees near the dams. They might be made by mud larks, peewees, but i have seen the wag tails using these to nest. Infact i think i have some pictures somewhere with birds nesting in which will try to find.Both types of birds appear about same time every year and leave around same time. Maybe like some birds here work together, maybe a shortage of dry foliage these use nests after pee wee, thouht was several nest and two clear sizes, pee wee nests, bigger by 30% and hih up on branches of gum tree
Yes Jason – it is quite possible for the Willie Wagtails to use the old nests of other species. The Magpie Lark (Peewee) nest would be quite suitable, especially when there is a lack of building materials in the area.
As for the seasonal movement of Willie Wagtails, I have not observed that where we live in South Australia, but I understand that it is quite common in some parts of Australia. This might indicate changing food availability.
Seriously luv the WW… BUT their bloody screeeching all nite long is unbelievably annoying. It makes a strong point for bieng an atheist, as how could a god with any intelligence make a bird with an instinct to do such a thing. In fact I’m wondering if these little buggers ever sleep at all as the ones near me go day and nite. Whilst we are on the subject doves are similarly annoying, except at least they shut up after dark.
To both these birds I encourage their sounds, but let’s keep it between business hours hey.
I have always love their call – very sweet and easy to lie there and listen.
Ours would sit on my husbands shoulder when he was mowing the lawn and wake the neighbour so he would ruffle his bushes to get the insects moving. “All right, all right; I’m coming!” you’d hear.
Yes, annoying little feckers.
We have some that have just started…they go from sun up to sun down. So we rise at sun up
Interesting that some start the torment at sun down? Glad that we don’t have that horrible situation.
We are in north east Vic. It is also obvious that they displace other birds.
SOme people have brains that really have difficulty with repetitive sounds….I am one.
Re dealing with this…..It isvery trite and indicative of a level of ignorance to say just tune out. If you are a light sleeper and have this sensitivity, it is not a matter of choice but a matter of genetics and pretty deep psychology.
Power to you if you can simply choose to not be effected by things out of your control. Sleep deprivation is ok a for a few days, but over months it can easily become a mental health risk.
Oh this is great news, I have recently bought a new car into the house and I was suspicuos that this call could have been to it’s lost prtner, if indeed my cat ate it by any chance ? I love the wagtail and I would be devastated if it ate one of my birds! Is it possible that it could be singing for a lost partner instead of it being a nocturnal call?
Hi just wondering when adolescent Willy Wagtails leave the care of their parent/ I have been watching babies grow, (unfortunately one parent and one baby disappeared when they were fledging) 2 left are now adolescent, One parent bird was still feeding them mostly through the day however I have not seen for the last 2 days- now the mother/father bird is singing non stop
I find it quite disturbing that humans can be so arrogantly disgruntled by wildlife ‘intruding’ on them. Let’s not forget that us humans have a huge impact on native wildlife and their environment. I’m sure Willie would have a few complaints of his own about our intrusion into his world. Willie doesn’t know it’s ‘your’ tree, close to ‘your’ bedroom. And I doubt whether he’s fully schooled on the work and sleep habits of humans. He knows only that it seems a suitable nesting site; a suitable spot to do what Willies do. It’s not a personal Wagtail vendetta against you.
As has been previously said, if the sounds of wildlife are objectionable, move to a locale where you won’t hear it. Complaining about birdsong when you live with trees is comparable to complaining about sandflies when you camp in a mangrove forest.
You CAN train Willie Wagtail to go away. IT will require consistent effort by you. I am on an acre block with multiple shrubs and gum trees he uses. His shrill whistling is very loud and piercing, I can stand most bird songs but not these. When they sing from shrubs, throw a rock at them to move them on. When they sit high in a tree, bang the trunk with a sledgehammer to move them on. Jsut keep doing this over and over, and the wagtail will get the message. I have moved one on doing this, I can still here him nearby, so he hasnt left the area, just my block. As soon as he sees me coming these days he flys away without me even doing anything.
Thank you for the reading on WW… but its driving me absolutely crazy…they churp all night right above my bedroom ive had no sleep for 2 nights.. how do they stay awake all night/day i dont understand i thought they’d be quiet and attract attention to themselves but no they have no fear at all.. crazy little birds..
Thank you for the information in your article about the WWs…I have been concerned about what species it was singing out in the tree across the road at night…I thought it may have been in some type of distress…the churping isn’t annoying to us, it is ‘pretty’…
Seriously considering chopping down the Lilypilly retries our residen WW has taken residence in! The calling goes from about 7pm right through until at least 5am. Surely this bloody Willy Wagtail is tired of calling!! I know my kids and I are (it’s right outside their window.
See, sleep deprived and cannot type properly!
*trees (not retries)!