Shake your tail feathers*

I have been doing a spot of quiet, unobtrusive bird-watching.

Mr and Mrs Willie Wagtail have set up house in my front yard.

Can you see her?

Mr Willie Wagtail is very active just now, hunting insects busily to keep Mrs Wilhelmina Wagtail fed as she sits on the teeny little nest they’ve built low down in the young frangipani tree in the front yard. It’s 5 ft from the road, 5 ft off the ground and right next to our driveway, so I’m not exaggerating when I say they’re incredibly tame. If you’re Australian, you’ve certainly seen these busy little creatures hopping and wagging, hopping and wagging as they search for insects on the ground. In the air, it’s another story. They become incredible aerialists, swooping and diving, feathering back to dead stops and cutting a swathe through the insect population.

They have a pretty melodious song, often sung at night in the breeding season, making it easy to identify in the general silence. And I’m willing to bet that tiny little nest (about 2½ inches across) is lined with silky black hair from a certain Mouse of my acquaintance. Mrs Wagtail is riding steadily as the branches wave in the slight hot breeze (it’s currently 32°C/90°F). I reckon she’s already laid her three eggs and is sitting on them till they hatch.

Maybe we’ll have some feathered babies for Christmas, too…

*One of my favourite Blues Brothers songs

31 thoughts on “Shake your tail feathers*

  1. Willie Wagtails are the small dogs of the avian world. Small stature big hearts. They harrass the kookas and maggies, and take charge of the the bird bath of their liking, and any of the others if they’re in the vicinity. So wonderful that they’ve decided to set up house with you. Sensible choice, as no doubt you’ll be keeping an eye on their well-being and seeing off any opportunists.

    • katechiconi says:

      The little Bravehearts are also astonishingly loud! The other huge advantage is the way they polish off twice their own body weight in bugs each day… I reckon I might need to put a bird bath of some sort out the front so the Mrs can keep herself nice and get a drink easily…

  2. thank you Kate – pretty song from that little bird

    • katechiconi says:

      They’re deeply endearing, not just for the pretty song, but for their stout-hearted bravery in the face of much larger creatures, their elegant appearance and their darting flight. One of my favourites.

  3. I have a bird bath in the back garden, it’s a wonderful source of entertainment in the summer. Have to laugh at the idea of the nest being lined with Mouse fur!

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m a little worried about an actual bird bath (although I’d love one) due to the neighbours’ cat. I was thinking about hanging something in a tree, which might work…

      • When my cats were younger, the bird bath was indeed a bit of a smorgasbord for them. Now I’m left with one, and she’s 18, so catching birds is part of her murky past!

      • katechiconi says:

        I think a dish hanging from a nearby branch might be the answer. The tree isn’t sturdy enough to be safely climbed, but is tall enough that a dish would be out of her reach.

  4. tialys says:

    You and Mr. Tialys are definitely twitchers. Lots going on in our huge oak tree and it’s all being watched through the binoculars that I’ve noticed have taken up a permanent position on the windowsill.

    • katechiconi says:

      Australian birds are very rewarding in terms of size, shape, colour, habits, sounds. Comparatively few small, brown, anonymous items, and lots of flashy, noisy, colourful, interesting jobs. That reminds me. I should dig out the binocs.

  5. Terri says:

    I was able to spot Mr. Wagtail, but the nest was hard to spot until you pointed it out. I’m sure Mouse is happy to share his lovely fur to help line the nest. I share your enjoyment of watching the birds and always keep the feeder full of seeds. I have a Red Bellied Woodpecker that’s been visiting my bird feeder for the last few weeks. It’s always a treat when he comes to feed, along with a couple Blue Jays and Cardinals plus all the sparrows that call this area home.

    • katechiconi says:

      The Wagtails will never need a feeder, since we are overabundantly blessed with insects, their food of choice. Also, winter isn’t much of a thing here and generally the birds that don’t disappear off somewhere else can find enough to eat.

  6. kymlucas says:

    Thank you for the birdsong. I miss hearing them in winter, and it’s definitely winter here now – snow on the ground. Just glad we can still enjoy watching winged visitors on our feeders and heated bird bath.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s a very warm summer night here, and I just went out to close a few doors and windows. Mr Willie Wagtail is twittering his little heart out…. Oh my, a *heated* bird bath. What luxury… but necessary, I guess in very cold winters.

      • kymlucas says:

        Definitely necessary, and the birds seem to appreciate it. The thing is attached to our deck railing, and we just plug it in during the winter via an outdoor extension cord.

  7. Willie and Wilhelmina sound charming. It’s utterly captivating to watch birds isn’t it?

    When you get a chance, read about how one woman’s fascination with birds helped heal her grief and transform her into a citizen scientist. Good stuff.

    • katechiconi says:

      That’s a lovely story. I do love to watch birds although I lack the drive that would turn me into a serious ‘ticker’ or ‘twitcher’. But my large, beautifully illustrated ‘The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia’ is full of markings to show which I’ve seen, and when, and where.

  8. Dayphoto says:

    How exciting! Babies. And right there in your yard for YOU!

  9. Oh how fun to watch life in action! They do bring you to the NOW don’t they? Looking forward to more reports on the well-being of these sweet birds.

  10. Going Batty in Wales says:

    How lovely to have them right where you can see them and enjoy their antics. Well done Mouse for giving them some soft stuff to line the nest and cosset their babies!

    • katechiconi says:

      There has to be some advantage to the hair… Not that he sheds that much, but it’s very soft and fine and clings to stuff. Perfect nest lining, really! Willy Wagtails have been known to actually pull hair from domestic animals, including a goat!

      • Going Batty in Wales says:

        I seem to spend a lot of time clearing up dog hair – but never enough to keep everything free of it! If the birds can use it so much the better.

      • katechiconi says:

        It’s quite prevalent in this house too, but being very fine and silky it doesn’t bulk too much. I regularly chuck clumps out in the back yard after grooming Mouse, and they always disappear quickly!

  11. cedar51 says:

    I’m reading your post and reading the comments listening to your bird song link – I would it if I could see a nest and Mother but although there are trees close by, can see none, nor hear any… I know I have thrushes as often I hear a whacking noise and if I’m quick I find one cracking open a snail…

  12. magpiesue says:

    I keep a terra cotta saucer on the railing of our deck for the little birds (and the occasional not-so-little- jay or robin!) to use and enjoy. It’s a hoot to see them all splashing about in the summer. I’ve taken it in now so it doesn’t freeze. I’ve had to replace the saucer more than once when I forgot to bring it in in time. I’ve only had one avian casualty due to roaming cats so far. Not a pretty sight. I’d love to do a bird feeder, especially during the winter months, but can’t tolerate the air quality consistently enough to keep it filled and clean. That leaves me with the few species that are bold enough to be willing to eat off the ground. (They get the leavings from my canary’s dish.)

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