Story: Small forest birds

Pied fantail

Pied fantail

A pied fantail’s tail has two dark central feathers, and opens to reveal white feathers. Fantails have white eyebrows, white and black chest bands and a buff underside. The black phase fantail (a genetic variation of the same species) is sooty black all over apart from a white tuft over the ear. This fantail has just been bathing in a tiny pool.

Fantails are important in Māori tradition. When the demigod Māui tried to conquer death by entering the body of Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess of death, a fantail laughed and woke her. She closed her legs and killed Māui – so the presence of a fantail is sometimes seen as an omen of death.

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Nga Manu Images
Reference: 10048614
Photograph by David Mudge

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Photograph courtesy of the Department of Conservation.

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How to cite this page:

Christina Troup, 'Small forest birds - Fantails and silvereyes', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 3 October 2023)

Story by Christina Troup, published 24 Sep 2007, reviewed & revised 17 Feb 2015, updated 1 Aug 2023