The black variant of tīwaiwaka/fantail is rare in the North Island and only makes up five per cent of fantails in the South Island.
For Whanganui DOC Biodiversity Ranger Claire Dowsett it was certainly a surprise encounter.
“I had almost given up for the afternoon, stuck in the dense patch of juvenile Titoki trees when I heard a friendly ‘cheet’. Imagine my surprise to see a black fantail. It reminded me of the important job and role that I have to protect our native species and encouraged me to keep going. It followed me for a good half hour,” Claire says.
The New Zealand tīwaiwaka (rhipidura fuliginosa) is known for its friendly ‘cheet cheet’ call and energetic flying antics. It is one of the most common and widely distributed native birds in New Zealand but it is not so commonly known that tīwaiwaka have two different colour morphs.
The commonly-known colouration of the pied fantail, is easily recognised in our gardens and local parks and described by NZ Birds Online as having a greyish head, white eyebrows, brown back and rump, cinnamon/brown breast and belly, white and black bands across the upper breast, and long black and white tail.
Black fantails, however, are mainly black, with a black/brown belly and rump, and occasionally (just like our friend at Gordon Park) they have a white spot over each ear.
The Gordon Park Scenic Reserve tīwaiwaka black morph fantail is extra special because it can be easily spotted by the community at the easily accessed park where it seems to favour the spot by the seat next to the Toyota Kiwi Guardians post.
DOC staff encourage the community to head out to the park to catch a glimpse of this special tīwaiwaka and use the #gordonparknz hashtag when posting images to social media so others can keep up to date with the amazing things happening at Gordon Park.