Restless Flycatcher

Did you know?

Another common name for the Restless Flycatcher is 'Scissors Grinder', for its rasping or hissing call when hovering.

Continuous whirring or rasping hisses when hovering.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
July to January in south; August to March in north
Clutch Size: 
3 to 4
14 days
Nestling Period: 
14 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Restless Flycatcher has a glossy blue-black head, with a small crest, and is white below, from the chin to the undertail, with a blue-black bill surrounded by bristles. The back, wings and tail are darker grey and there may be a slight orange brown tint on the breast. Young birds are duller grey black above, with the throat and breast washed orange-brown. The slightly smaller northern Australian sub-species,nana, known as the Paperbark Flycatcher, has a smaller bill and has the glossy blue-black colouring extending further down the back. The Restless Flycatcher is an extremely mobile and active bird and is able to hover while feeding, uttering a grinding call that gives it yet another common name: Scissors Grinder.

Similar species: 

The Restless Flycatcher is often found in the same habitats as the similarly sized and patterned Willie Wagtail. However, this species has a white eyebrow, and its black colouring extends down the throat and onto the upper breast; it also has a more rounded, fanned tail which it characteristically 'wags' and it lacks the Restless Flycatcher's head crest.

Where does it live?

The Restless Flycatcher is found throughout northern and eastern mainland Australia, as well as in south-western Australia. It is also found in Papua New Guinea. The southern subspecies, inquieta, is found in south-western Australia and from eastern South Australia to Julia Creek and Mount Isa, Queensland. The northern subspecies,nana, is found from the Kimberley region, Western Australia, to Cooktown and Townsville, Queensland. The two subspecies do not seem to mix where their ranges meet in central eastern Queensland.


The Restless Flycatcher is found in open forests and woodlands and is frequently seen in farmland.

Seasonal movements: 

South-eastern populations move north during winter.

What does it do?

The Restless Flycatcher feeds on insects, as well as other invertebrates such as spiders and centipedes and usually feeds alone or in pairs. It is able to hover, hanging almost vertically in the air with its head and spread tail pointing downwards as it picks insects off the leaves. It rarely comes to the ground, preferring to 'hawk' for insects from perches in the mid-level of the canopy.


The Restless Flycatcher builds a small cup-shaped nest of bark and grass bound with spider web, camoflaged with pieces of lichen and bark, and placed in a exposed position on a tree branch, often near or over water. Males and females both help to build the nest, incubate the eggs and feed the young. Up to three broods may be raised in one season and the young disperse quickly after fledging.

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