Tricia Hewlett Art

Wildlife Artist

Nov 12, 2023

Autumnal Tails Series

Fantails, a common NZ native bird loved by many, are fun, friendly, and fragile.

I have created a series of artworks in celebration of these critters called Autumnal Tails. 

Fantail do not tend to live more than 3 years as they are susceptible to winter’s cold. Huddling together in groups on the coldest nights allows some to survive. Their life is short but full of joy.

After surviving the winter with spring in the air, these friendly birds begin mating, breeding, and nest-building. Between August and February, they build delicate cup-shaped nests and lay 3-4 eggs. They work hard through the summer with both parents feeding the young, but the male takes on most of the feeding role during the second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth clutch of the season.

Autumnal Tails II is a watercolour artwork by Tricia Hewlett depicting three stylized fantails flittering among bright green leaves.

By autumn, many fantails are looking a bit tatty after a busy summer or because they are still growing their adult feathers. This does not stop them from enjoying a season of freedom. With no breeding, mating, nest-building, or raising of young, and with plentiful food around Fantails spend autumn having fun. The youngsters test out their aerobatics, learning their limits, and they all spend time filling their tummies and socialising.

Autumn Fun watercolour artwork by Tricia Hewlett depicting three fantail among autumn leaves.

Here at our home on Hinewai Reserve, Banks Peninsula, NZ, we have numerous fantails invading our garden in autumn, and never tire of watching their fun antics.

Fantail will often follow us, flying close by. This is because we disturb the insects the feed on. It’s a symbiotic relationship. One day we had an international walker on Hinewai Reserve. When asked if he was enjoying his walk he said yes, except for the little birds that were attacking him. We did manage not to laugh as we explained he was providing food on the wing for these little fantails.

When you are being bombarded by these tiny aerobatic critters, stand still, hold your arm out, and wait quietly. It is quite common for them to land on your hand.

Autumn Fantails in Gouache by Tricia Hewlett depicts two stylised fantail among autumn leaves.

They are lively, curious, and constantly trying to get into the studio. I spend far too much time shooing them out as no one wants fantail poop on their artwork!

Every year I also spend time watching them and peering through a camera lens trying to snap usable shots of these fast-moving critters! Needless to say, I do not manage too many usable photographs, but I do enjoy my time observing them.

Fantails remind me that no matter what life throws at us, we just need a few friends, some fun, and a friendly personality to get by in this life.

Friendly Fantail Artwork by Tricia Hewlett
Fantail Fanfair Graphite Artwork by Tricia Hewlett

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