The Rufous Fantail is usually seen singly or occasionally in twos, flitting about below the canopy of the rainforest. They often perch restlessly on the branches, with their wings continually fidgeted and the tail almost always fanned, regularly making short, jerky flights out from the perch, diving, twisting and looping near the branches to catch insect prey.
The Rufous Fantail is a small, active bird which has a distinctive reddish brown rump and continuously fanned tail. The crown, face, neck and shoulders are grey-brown, shading to reddish brown on the lower back, rump and upper tail.
The Rufous Fantail is found in rainforest, dense wet forests, swamp woodlands and mangroves, preferring deep shade, and is often seen close to the ground. They feed on insects, which it gleans from the middle and lower levels of the canopy. It is a very active feeder and constantly fans tail and flicks wings and body while foraging.
The Rufous Fantail builds a small compact cup nest, of fine grasses bound with spider webs that is suspended from a tree fork. Both sexes share nest-building, incubation and feeding of the young. One or two broods may be raised in a season.