Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Passeriformes / Passeridae / Motacilla / Species
Motacilla alba - White wagtail (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)

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INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

EXTERNAL APPEARANCES

REPRODUCTION

BEHAVIOUR

NATURAL DIET

RANGE & HABITAT

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Pied wagtail
  • White Wagtail (Europe).
  • Witte Kwikstaart (Holland).
  • Bergeronnette grise (France).
  • Bachstelze (Germany).
  • Ballerina bianca (Italy).
  • Lavandera blanca (Spain).
  • Sädesärla (Sweden).
  • Motacilla alba dukhunensis

(B162, B163, B164, B165, B166)

  • Motacilla alba alba - White wagtail
  • Motacilla alba yarelli - British pied wagtail
  • Motacilla alba subpersonata - Moroccan wagtail
  • Motacilla alba personata - Masked wagtail

(B89)

Names for newly-hatched

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Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases

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References

Species Author

Gordon McLeod

Species Editor

Debra Bourne

Major References

B162, B163, B164, B165, B166 

Aviculture references:

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Larks, Sparrows, Wagtails.

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information

Notes

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Management Techniques

Click image for main Aviculture Section

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length Head to tail:

Wingspan:

  • 25-30cm

Winglength:

  • Male: 87-96mm
  • Female: 85-92mm

(B162)

Adult weight General 17-25g (B162)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Head

Adult Bill Male Black, of medium length. (B162, B163, B164, B166)
Variations (If present) --
Eyes Male Black. (B162, B164, B166)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Bill Black. (B162, B164, B166)
Eyes (Iris) Black. (B162, B164, B166)

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Legs

Adult Male Black, of medium length. (B162, B163, B164, B166)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Black. (B162, B164, B166)

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Plumage

Adult Male (Non-breeding)
  • Upperparts: dark grey; shoulder black with white stripes at feather tips; rump black.
  • Head: black and white; crown black; cheeks white.
  • Underparts: Pale grey / white; breast grey; throat black; chin white.
  • Wings: black with white tips; upper flight feathers and coverts black with white tips; underside (whole wing) pale grey.
  • Tail: Long and narrow. Upper: black with white edges; under pale grey with black stripe down center.

(B162, B163, B164, B165, B166)

Male (Breeding)
  • As non-breeding plumage, except:
  • Upperparts: jet black.
  • Underparts: pale grey / white; breast black; throat black; chin black.

(B162, B164, B165, B166)

Variations (If present) Female:
  • Upperparts: slate grey.
  • Head: black and white; crown black; cheeks white; throat black; chin black.
  • Underparts: breast black; belly white.

(B162, B163, B164, B165, B166)

Juvenile
  • Upperparts: sooty grey, with a brownish tinge.
  • Wings: grey; coverts dark grey with white tips.
  • Underparts: mid-grey breast, lightening towards tail.

(B162, B163, B164, B165, B166)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

Altricial, helpless, downy, eyes closed. (B166)

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Reproduction

Reproductive Season

Time of year
  • April to August (B162); April to June. (B166)

North-west Europe: eggs laid from early April, mainly late April to mid-May. Northern Europe and Iceland: early June. Southern Europe: late April to mid July, with North African breeders laying two to three weeks earlier.

(B162, B166)

No. of Clutches 2. (B166)

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Nest placement and structure

  • Solitary nests.
  • Usually located in a hole or crevice.
  • Buildings, walls, river banks, cliffs, rubble mounds and dense bushes used.
  • Large cup constructed of twigs and vegetation, lined with hair, wool, feathers and other soft material.
  • Old nests of other species may be used.

(B162, B163, B166)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 5-6 (B163, B166)
Range 3-8 (B163)
Egg description: Whitish grey or blue-grey, with an even, fine speckling of darker grey or grey-brown. 20mm in length, narrow oval shaped.

(B162, B163, B166)

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Incubation

11-16 days (B162, B163); 12-14 days. (B166)

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Hatching

Synchronous. (B163)

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Fledging

11-16 days (B162, B163); 13-16 days. (B166)

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Adults Pick items from ground or water surface. Darting runs made at prey, catching it on the ground or as it takes off. Short flights made to catch flying prey in mid-air. Often found hunting on flat land such as golf courses, grass lawns and asphalt roofs, where fast darting runs may be made at prey. 

(B162, B163, B164)

Newly-hatched Fed by parents. (B163)

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building By both birds, but mainly by female. (B163)
Incubation By both birds, but mainly by female. (B163)
Newly-hatched Fed by both parents. (B163)
Juveniles

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific
  • Outside of breeding season may be solitary or gregarious, with territorial defense of limited food resources.
  • Communal roosting in winter is typical, often in large numbers (up to1000 birds).

(B162, B163)

Inter-specific Subject to brood parasitism by cuckoos. (B163)

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Monogamous pair bond normally only for breeding season, though occasionally formed on winter territories.
  • Breeding territory typically used from year to year.

(B162)

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Predation in Wild

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Activity Patterns

  • Perches openly.
  • Walks.
  • Takes off from ground.

(B166)

Circadian --

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Natural Diet

Adults

  • Small insects and other invertebrates.

(B162, B163, B166)

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Newly-hatched

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Widespread across western Palearctic and Asia (except Indian peninsula), also breeds in Alaska and south-east Greenland. (B162, B163, B166)

Britain: Widespread and resident. (B166)

Migration:

  • Variable from mostly resident to wholly migratory across range.
  • Northern Palearctic populations generally migrate to the Mediterranean area, or to the tropics or sub-tropics of Africa.
  • Resident in Britain, with additional winter populations from Iceland and northern Europe.
  • Northern Asiatic populations may spend the winter on the Indian peninsula.

(B162, B163, B166)

Occasional and Accidental Spitzbergen, Bear Island, Jan Mayan, Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde Islands. (B162)
Introduced

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Habitat

  • Open, cultivated countryside close to habitation and freshwater, such as lakesides, farmland, villages, golf courses and gardens.
  • In northern ranges, may be found far from habitation in forest and bogland.

(B162, B164, B166)

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Conservation

Intraspecific variation

Three additional western Palearctic races:
  • Motacilla alba yarrellii (Britain and Ireland). Darker, blacker upperparts, white tips to wing coverts slightly wider.
  • Motacilla alba dukhunensis (south-west extremes of western Palearctic). Paler grey plumage, white tips of median and upper wing coverts wider.
  • Motacilla alba subpersonata (Morocco). Markedly different - head, neck and chest black, with forehead, eye-ring and supercilium white. White fringes along median and greater upper wing coverts. White fringe on tertials often very wide, especially in males.

(B162, B164)

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
(Importance)

Widespread across Europe and Asia. (B163)

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Vulnerable to cold winters. (B163)

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Captive Populations

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Trade

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