Willie wagtails harass Australian raven

on 18th January 2023

On 7 November 2022, Wong Kais witnessed an epic bird battle that lasted 30 minutes. He was walking along Liebig Street, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia when he heard a lot of bird flaps and flashes of black and white darting across the top of a roof. He stepped off the pavement and found a position that allowed him to film the kerfuffle.

Two little birds, Willie wagtails, were taking turns to attack an Australian raven, Corvus coronoides.  At other times both willies attacked at the same time by swooping down in mad-hatter fashion.  The raven stayed put and defended itself against the determined willies. Sometimes the raven turned around to fight off the feisty little birds, at other times it tried to peck at the pesky attackers.  For a short while, a third willie joined in the affray but eventually went on its way.

Willie wagtails, Rhipidura leucophrys,  breed from August to January. The willies were probably defending their nest nearby. These little birds have been documented to fight off Magpie Larks, Magpies, and even Wedge-tailed Eagles.  Wong Kais observed a pair of these little birds harassing a Kookabura at the Blue Mountains and tt Continental Park, Port Elliot, South Australia he witnessed a pair of Willie wagtails mob an Australian magpie (2 July 2022).

Image 1: The raven calls loudly and raises its hackles feathers on the throat as a willie attacks from behind. 7 November 2022.
Image 2: The raven turns its head to face its enemies. 7 November 2022.
Image 3: As the raven turns around to face off the stationary one, another pesky one flew above and behind it. 7 November 2022.
Image 4: The aggressive willies attack the raven from different heights. One willie distracts it from above and another on attacks below the belt? 7 November 2022.
Image 5: In this action sequence, the willies attack from the same direction but from different heights again. 7 November 2022.
Image 6: The raven turns around to face off the two willies by leaping up and going air-borne. 7 November 2022.
Image 7: During an interlude in the fight, the nemeses rested along the edge of the roof. 7 November 2022.


Below are photographs of a raven and a Willie wagtail snapped at Victor Harbor, South Australia.

Image 8: Australian raven seen in Victor Harbor, South Australia. Kent Reserve. 3 July 2022.
Image 9: Willie wagtail portrait. Wee little bird with warrior demeanor following Kais on the beach, snatching insects that became airborne when disturbed. Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor, South Australia. 3 July 2022.


View the following You-tube clip documenting the fierce battle launched by the wee little birds against the bigger raven.


All photographs © Wong Kais.

Texts and captions by Teo Lee Wei.



  1. Birds of Australia A Photographic Guide by Iain Campbell, Sam Woods, Nick Leseberg © 2015
  2. Cronin’s Key Guide Australian Wildlife by Leonard Cronin © 2007
  3. Fleurieu Birds by Peter Gower © 2012



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If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

LW Teo

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