Skip to contents
Bird of the Week

Bird of the Week: Willie Wagtail

This bird is a reminder that the avian world has just as many moody and temperamental residents as the human one.

Mark Gillow

This week’s Bird of the Week is…the willie wagtail.

True story, I was going to do this blog about a different bird, the restless flycatcher. But then I found out that there is a similar bird called the willie wagtail that hangs out all over Australia, and I had to change directions. The name “willie wagtail” made this a necessity. But the willie wagtail is also good to examine because it is a reminder that the bird world has its fair share of aggressive inhabitants, just like the human world.

The first thing to know about the willie wagtail is that it always looks extremely pissed off.

Credit: Graham Winterflood

Willie is pissed! Seriously, this bird looks like it goes through life just seething.

Credit: Dorothy Jenkins

DEATH STARE. This bird is not to be played with. Seriously. From Birdlife Australia:

The Willie Wagtail is one of Australia’s most widespread species, at least on the mainland. Reflecting this, it features prominently in Indigenous mythology. Willie Wagtails were disliked by Indigenous people in some areas, as they were thought to loiter at the edge of camps, listening to conversations then telling the secrets elsewhere. The Willie Wagtail was also seen as an ill omen, and they would abandon an expedition if a Willie Wagtail was seen on the morning of departure.

The wagtail is telling us: Back the fuck off!

The second thing to know about the willie wagtail is that it looks hella cool when it’s flying around, which it does all the time.

Credit: Dorothy Jenkins

Look at those wings!

Credit: Dorothy Jenkins

Dang. And what is it doing with these wings? Looking for food, of course. Again from Birdlife Australia:

Willie Wagtails are active feeders. Birds can be seen darting around lawns as they hunt for insects on the ground. As they do so, the tail is wagged from side to side. Insects are also captured in the air, in active chases.

You may have clocked that part about the tail. This is also why this is a notable bird. Video time:

The wagtail is also fearless and sometimes rude. Look at it tormenting this whole cat!

This cat is just minding its business and the wagtail is all over it. Get away from the cat!

My guess from the video is that the wagtail felt threatened in some way. According to the Queensland government, the birds “can be aggressive, especially when they feel their territory is under threat. Excitable little birds, they will defend their patch from much larger animals, even cows.”

Even cows.

OK, back to a nice thing about the wagtail: it has a lovely set of pipes.

In conclusion, willie wagtails: one hell of a bird.