Backyard Buddies
Willie Wagtail

Photo: Simone Cottrell OEH

Willie Wagtail

Go Back

The Willie Wagtail, Rhipidura leucophrys, lives all over mainland Australia and is hard to miss with its long fanned tail that it swings from side to side or up and down while foraging on the ground.

The distinctive white eyebrow of the male wagtail is not just a fashion statement - it helps him attract a mate. Rival males show aggression by expanding their eyebrows during a territorial dispute. The loser shows his submission by hiding his eyebrow completely, making him look like a young, immature bird.

The Willie Wagtail is very active and rarely still for more than a few moments during daylight hours.

A Wagtail spends most of its time on the ground where it will often harass much larger birds to keep them out of its territory and may even stand up to other animals.

The Willie Wagtail is very tame, so you can get up close as it darts around your backyard lawn, hunting for insects on the ground and catching them in the air.

Danger from cats is always present however when they are feeding on the ground, so keep an eye on your or neighbour's cat when they are around.

The Willie Wagtail prefers a wet backyard with lots of leaf-litter for feeding, and available mud for building its nest. The Wagtail uses grasses, spider webs, hair and fur to construct its nest and will reuse the materials to rebuild its nest if necessary. The Willie Wagtail is a great recycler.

Willie Wagtails love:

But they don't like:

Try to:


Don't be surprised if Willie Wagtails:

A few more Willie Wagtail facts

Related Factsheets:

Black & White Birds

What bird is that? Many birds look similar and can be hard to tell apart from a distance. Black and white birds are some of the most commonly seen in our backyards. Pied Butcherbird The Pied Butcherbird has a beautiful, musical call that sounds like loud, clear notes from a flute. T..


Eastern Koel

The Eastern Koel is a common buddy in many backyards in cities and towns across eastern and northern Australia. Traditionally inhabiting woodlands and rainforests, they're also comfortable in urban places, particularly where there are tall trees to hide in and lots of fruiting plants. K..



Laughing Kookaburras have a complex social structure and communicate with a wide variety of sounds. Their distinctive “laugh” is actually warning other kookaburras to stay out of their territory. To let other kookaburras know where their home territory is, a family group will laugh througho..


Masked Lapwing (Plover)

Masked Lapwings are a common visitor to grassy and wet areas of our cities and towns. They love to nest on the ground in parks, school ovals, golf courses, sports fields, and pastures. Masked Lapwings breed after wet weather, in summer and autumn in northern Australia and during winter t..


Noisy Miner

The Noisy Miner is a common buddy in many backyards in cities and towns across eastern Australia. Their noisy call can be a nuisance but there are lots of ways to manage them and enjoy their helpful behaviours. Traditionally inhabiting open woodlands, they're also comfortable in urban places..


Pied Currawong

Growing up to 51 cm, Pied Currawongs are impossible to miss. Their jet black feathers are a striking contrast to their bright yellow eyes. Pied Currawongs also have splotches of white on their tail, undertail and wing tips, which are revealed when they fly. These birds have a cheeky stre..


Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow lorikeets tend to roost in large groups and can be seen just on dusk arriving by the hundreds at their favourite roosting place, usually in tall eucalypts. These colourful birds can be seen almost anywhere along the east coast of Australia. Their behaviour is quite comical at times, ..



”I am a proud Backyard Buddy, doing my bit for our wonderful wildlife, I encourage you to get involved!“

James – BYB Supporter & Homeowner, VIC

Photo: OEH