The fantail or pīwakawaka (Rhipidura fuliginosa) is 16 centimetres long, including its 8-centimetre tail. It weighs 8 grams. Most fantails are brown above and pale underneath. Their fan-like tail, usually held high above the body, is made up of long dark central feathers flanked by white feathers. About 20% of South Island fantails are completely black.
The fantail’s tail contributes to its distinctive flight – twisting and turning in the air as it catches insects in flight. Its call is like a kissing sound.
New Zealand’s fantails belong to three separate subspecies not found in Australia: one on each of the North, South and Chatham islands.