Meet Albert

Albert the piwakawaka

May I introduce you to Albert – about 8 grams of chattering, feathered confidence? Albert has learned that the laundry door is left open during the day (in order to allow easy passage in and out of the house for our increasingly geriatric dog, Spike) and he has taken to popping in and out of our isolation bubble during the day. So confident has he become that I no longer have to open windows and shut doors to enable him to get out. He knows the way in and out and comes and goes at will.

It is hard to photograph them with their fan tails fully extended because they are such active flibbertygibbets

Albert may of course be Albertina. I tried searching how to tell a male piwakawaka from a female but failed to find anything definitive. The common name for these little native birds is fantail, on account of their tails which they hold out as full fanned fannies, really. They are notoriously difficult to photograph, being hyperactive, so these photos show just how chilled out Albert is indoors.

He likes to announce his arrival by chirruping noisily. Rating the decibels generated in proportion to extremely slight body weight, this must be one of the noisiest birds on the planet. Piwakawaka are insect eaters and I think Albert finds random reinforcement from his house visits in the form of raiding small flies from the occasional spiders’ webs that have escaped my notice.

Albert contemplating cooking lessons

We have fantails in the garden all year round but at this time of the year as the autumn fruit fall and we are gathering in the harvest (grapes this week), they will often come into covered areas in search of fruit flies. It is a good thing we are not superstitious. It is common lore in NZ that a piwakawaka coming indoors is a harbinger of death, attributed to Maori mythology. In fact, if you look into it, it may be a sign of an impending death OR a messenger from the gods. In a country where the ancient myths and legends are based entirely on oral tradition, there is a fair amount of regional variation. We are going with the theory that Albert is either an opportunist or a benign messenger. We have grown quite fond of him and the feeling appears to be mutual, as much as 8 grams of feathered determination can demonstrate bonding.

For scale, this is Albert in the the TV room. 

And a fantail nest from my files

12 thoughts on “Meet Albert

  1. jaspersdoggyworld

    We too seem to be visited by fantails inside each year. All those insects hiding in corners of the ceilings. They seem to be very interested in that other fantail that lives in the mirror above the fireplace. I like them out in the garden. They always seem interested in what you are doing out here.

  2. robynkiltygardensnz

    Lovely – I have had them too this – they come down form the mountains when it temperatures drop. They like bathing on the shelf of my pond – just the right sort of depth of water for them to flutter about in, darting backwards and forwards with their lovely tails fanned out. I’ve written blogs too, bur have had tech problems trying to get them out. You never seem to have tech problems!!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Robyn, I have the tech of posts sorted but I battle ultra slow and unstable rural broadband every day. With little prospect of improvement.

  3. Susan Oliver

    How lovely. I knew these birds were insect eaters and notice that they turn up in quite good numbers at this time of year but hadn’t made the connection between autumn fruit and the insects that abound when the fruit ripens. Thanks for pointing out what probably should have been obvious :)

  4. Angela

    They have become my favourite gardening companion akin to the English robin I left behind over 40 years ago. Whilst our fantails hover around shoulder height, the robin was down alongside me waiting for ground insects to appear. Both as enchanting as one another. A lovely post Abbie set to cheer us.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I have always thought that when the early settlers brought us blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, goats, rabbits and possums, it was such a shame we never got the robin. But I would guess that they tried and that the poor little robins died in transit or on release.
      Glad you enjoyed that post.

  5. Paddy Tobin

    It’s always a great pleasure to have such an interaction with a wild creature.

    Here, it is the pheasants who enjoy being fed so well and have lost all fear of us. They come to us in the garden looking for food.

    Stay safe and well in this time of isolation. Best wishes. Paddy

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      We have pheasants! Beautiful things but still very skittery here. Mark was less delighted when they started making inroads on one of his vegetable patches, though. And it appears they have no road sense. We have picked up a couple hit by cars – very dead but still beautiful. Hope you are staying well and safe, Paddy. We appear to be on track for pretty much eradicating the threat of Covid – as long as our borders stay closed.

      1. Paddy Tobin

        Yes, living in isolation is working against the virus and hopefully we will all come out of this safely.

  6. Pingback: RIP little Albert | Tikorangi The Jury Garden

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