New Zealand Fantail at the Blue Spring

I had to chuckle to myself for heeding my own advice during our most recent visit to New Zealand! In our eBook New Zealand Tip-to-Tip, I suggested having two cameras ‘at-the-ready’ (one for landscapes and one for birds) just in case an opportunity arose when visiting the Blue Spring. As luck would have it I had a very brief close encounter with a New Zealand Fantail at the Blue Spring.

Before leaving the car I got my Nikon 1 V3 (equipped with a 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm zoom lens) ready for bird photography. Later, as my wife and I crossed a small bridge that traverses the Blue Spring I caught a glimpse of a New Zealand Fantail fluttering near a tree next to the bridge.

New Zealand Fantails are often quite erratic flyers and this particular bird was no exception. It would perch very briefly before flitting from branch to branch. What follows is a small collection of five images. All of the photographs were  captured hand-held in less than two minutes. If you check the EXIF data, you’ll see that I had to adjust the focal length of my lens a few times as this little bird fluttered about.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 267 mm, efov 721 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 270 mm, efov 729 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-3200
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 270 mm, efov 729 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-2800
Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 270 mm, efov 729 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-2200

New Zealand Fantails are quite common forest birds on both the North and South Islands. They are sensitive to prolonged wet and cold conditions, and are seldom found in open areas that are prone to frost.

The birds are prolific breeders and local populations are often able to recover within a year or two after severe weather. New Zealand Fantails have long and distinctive black and white tails. These songbirds are about 16 cm (~6.3 inches) long and weigh about 8 grams (~0.3 ounces). Their diet consists of mainly moths, flies, beetles and spiders. Indigestible portions like wings are often discarded before the remainder of the prey is eaten.

During previous visits to New Zealand I had seen fantails a number of times and taken a few photographs of them. The images featured in this article are the best I’ve been able to capture… a bit of luck during our final visit to New Zealand!

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in reading more information about New Zealand you may enjoy our eBook, New Zealand Tip-to-Tip, which is available for purchase and download at a cost of $12.99 Canadian.


Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection. I shot in Manual mode using Continuous Auto-Focus with Subject Tracking at 10 frames per second, and Auto ISO 160-6400.

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6 thoughts on “New Zealand Fantail at the Blue Spring”

  1. Hi Tom,

    What a thing of beauty — having two cameras on hand paid off handsomely. Quite fond of fantails myself, such audacious birds I must say, very, very territorial. Found one here in the middle of the city, never failing defend its nearby nest by swooping on any moving thing, human or canine 😀


    1. Hi Oggie,

      The subject bird in the article seemed to be more intent on feeding around the tree branches than anything else. I was very lucky that it stayed for almost two minutes, giving me a chance to capture some images of it. The last time I was at the Blue Spring in New Zealand I didn’t have my birding kit ready from the ‘get-go’ and ended up missing some opportunities… so I learned from my past mistake. Old dogs and new tricks…


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