Saturday, April 26, 2014

Willy Wagtail - A-Z Blog Challenge

One of these delightful little birds claims our yard as part of his territory and I've been trying to get a photo but he's not easy to catch.                                      

Willy wagtails - Rhipidura leucophrys - are one of the fantails and they are sprightly, energetic little birds. With their black backs and white fronts they could be wearing tuxedos and they strut around, wagging their behinds, tails fanned upright. Since they are only between 19-21 centimetres (7 ½ - 8 ½ inches) in length you might expect them to be like so many other small birds, most of which are shy and retiring. Nope, not the willy wagtails. Apparently completely fearless, they'll take on anything. I've seen a pair of them dive bomb a raven (more than twice their size) and drive it off. They'll swoop any cat foolish enough to enter their territory too and apparently this noisy little bird is seriously intimidating because they - the cats that is - take off over the fence at speed. I've even watched willy wagtails stand in the middle of the road as a car bears down on them, facing it and chattering loudly until the last moment when they lift off only to keep on scolding from the side of the road.

If you're lucky enough to have one - or a pair - sharing your garden they'll supervise you when you're working, often darting down to grab an insect you disturb, which is pretty useful. Our little resident loves bathing in the bird bath and showering in the sprinkler, too.

Willy wagtails are very important in Aboriginal culture. The indigenous people from the south west area of Western Australia, the Noongar people (although you'll find many spelling variations), have many stories about the willy wagtail as do other Aboriginal  people. The Noongar name for it is djidi djidi or jitti jitti. It's very appropriate because it's a common sound they make although they also flute and sing. There's a comprehensive coverage of sounds here.

All in all they are engaging little birds and I for one find them fascinating.


No comments: