Thomas Edmondston, of Argdowan School, asks :-

Can a fantail fly straight?

Simon Pollard, a zoologist at the Canterbury Musuem, responded.

Most of the time we see fantails they seem to be flying in all directions except a straight line. In fact, they often remind me of the way an inflated balloon flies when the air suddenly rushes out of it. Fantails feed mostly on insects, and often catch their prey on the wing. When we walk through forest, we often disturb flying insects that have landed and they fly off into the air around us. Fantails, by hanging around us, can catch and eat the insects we have disturbed. To catch insects that are flying off in all directions, the fantail darts all over the place to catch food as it flies by. I'm sure many fantails associate people with good feeding opportunities and follow them around.

I have often seen bats in the tropics, behaving like fantails, when they catch insects attracted to lights at night. Similarly, they seem to fly like they are out of control, as they chase their confused prey. However, fantails, like bats, can also fly in a straight line when, for example, they return to their nests, or in the case of bats, roosts. Also, a fantail escaping from a predator, like a cat, will certainly fly directly away from it, rather than stay in the area. If you want to see a fantail fly straight, try remaining still and quiet in a patch of bush and watch the bird as it flies around.