Just last month, I introduced you to Albert, our visiting piwakawaka. Albert was the type of companion who liked to announce his presence but, being a very small bird, we didn’t really notice when he wasn’t present. So, we didn’t worry when a few days passed without a visit. No alarm bells rang for us, so to speak.
Sadly, Albert had extended his house visits to the upstairs bedrooms and became trapped in one of them when the door was closed to keep the house warmer on a cool night. I found him, passed away on the bedspread yesterday when I went to open the windows.
Albert alive would, apparently, have weighed no more than 8 grams. Deceased and dehydrated, he weighed little more than a cluster of feathers. It was poignant. I was sad. Mark was sad when I brought the little body downstairs. I buried him in the garden where I was working. Small of stature he may have been, but he deserved dignity in death.
Such an exuberant little life filled with energy and chatter snuffed out.
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