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Pied Fantail
Rhipidura javanica

Murai Gila (Malay)

Pied Fantails are named for their habit of fanning out their beautiful long tails. It has been suggested that by revealing the white tips of the tail, insects are startled into movement.

Pied Fantails eat mainly insects. Unlike their relatives the flycatchers, Fantails forage close to the ground in the dark understorey, perching on a root or low branch, teetering at the ready to launch into flight. They catch their prey on the wing and rarely miss. Their broad bill is ringed with spines (rictal bristles) which may help them catch insects even in the dim light of the understorey.

They move actively in the undergrowth, lurching from perch to perch; dashing in acrobatic flights. They make short flights from one cover to the next. They are generally quite inquisitive and not shy. They hunt alone or in pairs.
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Small (18cm); dark plumage; long broad tail which it often fans out. Genders look alike.

Adult: Narrow black breast band contrasting with white throat and whitish belly. Upperparts dark/slaty grey; tail black tipped with white; eyebrow white.

Female: Rusty brown rump, upper tail coverts and wings; breast band smaller and blotched with white.

Call: Described as various churrs, chattering, whistles and squeaks; kree-chak . A common call is a long drawn out wheee-feeouul.

Drawing from
Bucknill and Chosen
In flight: Rump appears white due to overlap of long flank feathers.

Status in Singapore: Common resident throughout the island and North and South offshore islands.

World distribution: Southeast Asia.

Classification: Family Corvidae (Crows, Orioles, Ioras). World 647 species, Singapore 17 species. Subfamily Rhipiduridae.
Their hyperactive madcap hunting style is probably what earned them their Malay name which means "Crazy Thrush".

In Singapore, Pied Fantails are most frequently found in mangroves. But they can also be seen in other habitats with lots of undergrowth and insects. These include scrub and cultivated areas (gardens, plantations). They are not seen in deep forests where there is insufficient undergrowth.

Breeding: Pied Fantails breed from February to July. They build a neat well-made nest, lashed onto the fork of thin branches in the middle of a bush or leafy creeper, sometimes on a bamboo stem. The nest is built low (at our eye-level). It is made out of stiff plant fibres held together with spiders' webs. Usually a neat cone ending in a delicate tail. 2 yellowish-white eggs with small brown spots are laid.

Status and threats: Pied Fantails are not at risk in Singapore as they have adapted even to cultivated areas.

  To buy these references & others, visit
Nature's Niche
  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 334: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay names).
  • Lim Kim Seng and Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 95: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
  • Morten Strange and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing, 1993 (p. 138: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Clive Briffett, "A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science Centre,1992 (p. 119: habit, habitat).
  • Christopher Hails, "Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 138: habits, description, status in Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1992 (p. 16: status in Singapore).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 183-184: description, habits, habitat).
  • M W F Tweedie, "Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970 (p. 51: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 97: description, habits, habitat).
  • Sir John A S Bucknill and F N Chansen, " Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia", Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 171-72: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings)
  • Dr. Harold G Cogger (et. al), "Encyclopedia of Animals"; Monarch and their allies by Stephen Garnett, 1993 (p. 419: habits).
By Ria Tan, 2001