What do Willie Wagtails Eat and How to Attract Them to Your Garden

Willie wagtails are the cutest little birds that are just so much fun to watch as they flit around your garden.

These birds are found all over Australia and don’t mind hanging around urban areas where there are plenty of people.

In your effort to attract willie wagtails to your garden, you might be wondering what they eat and what you can do to make your garden more hospitable.

What do willie wagtails love to feast on?

Primarily, willie wagtails feed on insects. This includes grasshoppers, moths, the larvae of various insects, scarab beetles, and even frogs and small lizards. 

Willie Wagtail 4 | Wildlife

A wagtail often searches for food on the ground. To do this, it will stick its beak into the ground to look for tasty morsels. You might also witness a wagtail catching flying insects in the air.

In fact, in summer, a wagtail will mainly catch flying insects while in winter, it’s more likely to forage for invertebrates that live in the ground.

A common diet of the willie wagtail includes the following:

These vibrant little birds feed mostly during the day which means that they’re diurnal. They have exceptional eyesight which helps them to find their food. Especially, flying insects. 

Willie Wagtail 2 | Wildlife

It might surprise you to learn that it can be common for a wagtail to follow you as you walk around the garden because your movement is likely to disturb any insects as you walk past. This makes it easy for the birds to spot a nice, tasty meal.

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How to attract willie wagtails to your garden

Willie Wagtail 1 | Wildlife

In order to attract willie wagtails to your garden, you need to create the conditions that they favour. These busy birds really love damp yards where there’s lots of mulch and leaf litter that they can dig through to find tasty morsels.

It’s also ideal if you have a nice bird bath or similar that provides them with fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing in.

Planting dense, relatively low-growing native shrubs will also help attract these birds to your garden. This provides the perfect habitat for them to hide from possible predators. It’s even better if you plant prickly shrubs as these give the birds plenty of good hiding places.

Try and create a more natural garden setting where you have plenty of mulch and leaf litter that covers the ground. Randomly placed logs and small rocks are also useful as these provide the perfect habitat for the bugs and lizards that wagtails love to eat.

Willie Wagtail 3 | Wildlife

You also want to make sure that there are plenty of nest-building materials available in your backyard. Willie wagtails will use grasses, hair, animal fur, and spider webs to build their nests. Therefore, you want to leave some of those cobwebs instead of cleaning them up as soon as they appear.

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What you should avoid if you want to attract willie wagtails to your garden

Most importantly, you should avoid using pesticides and other chemicals around your garden if at all possible. In the unfortunate event that a wagtail eats an insect that has been poisoned, it will become sick.

You should also avoid feeding any native birds, including willie wagtails, that visit your garden. It’s much better for these birds to forage for their own food and providing the right habitat will ensure that there will be plenty of tasty morsels to keep your bird visitors happy.


Do wagtails return to the same nest?

Wagtails will use the same nest multiple times in the same season. However, they’ll usually build a new nest in the following season but will often reuse materials from a previous nest. It’s not uncommon for wagtails to return to the same nesting site year after year.

How many eggs does a Willie wagtail lay?

Generally, a willie wagtail will lay three eggs at a time. However, a single female can hatch up to 4 clutches of eggs in just one season as long as conditions are optimal.

Do Willie wagtails mate for life?

Yes, it’s common for willie wagtails to mate for life and the same breeding pair may return to your garden year after year.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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