Rufous Fantail

Did you know?

The Rufous Fantail is found in wetter, denser habitats than the related Grey Fantail.

Thin, ascending whistles; also a single or double 'chip'.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
October to February
Clutch Size: 
2 to 3
14 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Rufous Fantail is a small, active bird which has a distinctive reddish brown rump and continuously fanned tail. The crown, face, neck and shoulders are grey-brown, shading to reddish brown on the lower back, rump and upper tail. The eyebrow is reddish-brown, the chin and throat are white, grading into a dappled black and white breast, and the rest of the underparts are white tinged red-brown. The wings are grey-brown and the tail feathers have red-brown bases, but are otherwise dark grey, tipped white. Young birds are similar, but duller, with less distinct markings on the breast.

Similar species: 

The Rufous Fantail is similar in shape and behaviour to the Grey FantailR. fuliginosa, but can be distinguished by its bright red eyebrow and rump. It also tends to inhabit denser, wetter habitats.

Where does it live?

The Rufous Fantail is found in northern and eastern coastal Australia, being more common in the north. It is also foind in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Sulawesi and Guam.


The Rufous Fantail is found in rainforest, dense wet forests, swamp woodlands and mangroves, preferring deep shade, and is often seen close to the ground. During migration, it may be found in more open habitats or urban areas.

Seasonal movements: 

Strongly migratory in the south of its range, it moves northwards in winter, and virtually disappears from Victoria and New South Wales at this time.

What does it do?

The Rufous Fantail feeds on insects, which it gleans from the middle and lower levels of the canopy. It is a very active feeder and constantly fans tail and flicks wings and body while foraging.


The Rufous Fantail builds a small compact cup nest, of fine grasses bound with spider webs, that is suspended from a tree fork about 5 m from the ground. The bottom of the nest is drawn out into a long stem. Both sexes share nest-building, incubation and feeding of the young. One or two broods may be raised in a season.

Living with us

The Rufous Fantail, while normally found in dense, wet habitats, may be seen in more open or urban areas when migrating.

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