This family has fewer species (about 40) than the monarch family, but also has a more restricted global distribution, being confined to South and Southeast Asia, Australia and islands of the Southwest Pacific. The highest number of species is in New Guinea, where the family probably originated. Consisting of only one, fairly uniform genus (Rhipidura) the fantails are far less diverse in size, shape and colour than the monarchs. Their most obvious characteristic, and the one that explains their vernacular name, is a long, fan-shaped tail, which comprises about half the total length of the bird, and which is characteristically spread and waved from side to side almost continuously. Other features of fantails are a small, flat, broad-based (almost triangular) bill with a tiny hooked tip, numerous very long rictal bristles in two rows between the gape and the eye (monarchs have only one row), and short legs with weak feet. They also have rounded wings, which sacrifice speed for extra manoeuvrability, an important ability for birds that chase flying insects in the confined spaces of dense forests, often twisting and turning almost 180 degrees in mid-air.
Java hosts three species of fantails, of which two are endemic to the island, but are confined to montane forests; the other, much more widespread species occurs in Baluran
Generally weak but buoyant and man
euvrable, able to turn quickly in very short distances.