White Wagtail: Interesting bird life


A small and funny wagtail bird is known to almost everyone. You can see it almost all year round. The area of ​​its habitat is huge, stretching almost from the Arctic deserts to the Asian. It occurs even in Iceland and China. By the way, and the wagtail is a migratory bird or not?

This is not an idle question, because in some places it is considered settled, while in others it is claimed that this bird flies off somewhere every winter.

In this matter, in fact, is not so simple. Scientists believe that the wagtail began its victorious march around the world somewhere in Africa. And the peculiarities of all populations say that it is happening from somewhere in the south. So who is such a wagtail: a migratory bird or not?

Ornithologists say that for most of its vast range, this bird makes regular winter flights. But in southern Europe and in Africa there are such populations that do not fly away for the winter.

The issue of seasonal variation of places may also arise because among this species there is a high percentage of polymorphism, when birds from different places look completely different. They can be confused with other species, which is why this dispute arose.

In our country, the wagtail is a migratory bird that returns to its homeland during the beginning of the opening of rivers from ice. As a rule, it happens somewhere in the end of March.

By the way, right after the arrival, these birds like to keep near the ice-flowing rivers and thaws, which is why people say jokingly that it is the wagtail that breaks the ice. Migratory bird or not - we have already figured out, but what happens in the transition zones of Central Asia?

We have not accidentally focused attention on this issue. In those parts, the climate is very harsh (however strange it may sound). The fact is that the summer months are often characterized by a suffocating heat and a scorching sun, whereas winter, by its severity, can strike even the indigenous Siberian.

A vivid example of this is Mongolia. In summer, the temperature can approach +60 degrees Celsius, and in winter it can go far down, beyond the mark of -20 degrees. So how does the bird wagtail (which photo is in the article) behave in such conditions?

It is here that she shows all her uniqueness! In the same Mongolia, there are almost a dozen subspecies of the parent individual, which differ in its appearance and habits from it.

So, some of them are almost endemics leaving their homes only in the case of extremely harsh winters, and some wagtails make long-distance flights even in summer, easily forming new hybrids.

The only quality that unites all representatives of this unique species is their strange craving for humans and anthropogenic landscapes. If there is a large city in the vicinity of the habitat of some range, then almost all birds will settle in its area.

By the way, there is another oddity here: in large settlements, wagtails often change their habits, and then a part of the population remains in the same place even in winter. Of course, this can be explained by the richness of the food supply, but because other birds do not do that!

Here it is, wagtail. It is difficult to say with certainty whether a migratory bird or not, since a number of factors can influence this.

general description

This small bird belongs to the Sparrow-like order, to the family of the Earable. Scientists subdivide white wagtails into 14 subspecies. All of them differ in the shade of plumage. The body size of the bird along with the tail is about 20 cm. The overall color of the plumage is gray, but the belly and head are white. Breast and crown in wagtail black. The wings and tail have gray and white feathers. All birds, regardless of their subspecies, look interesting, but all males have a clearer, more saturated color.

The white wagtail (photo shown above) lives in the predominant part of Eurasia and in North Africa. With the onset of cold weather, usually in November, the bird travels to the Mediterranean Sea or to South Africa. But the inhabitants of temperate latitudes do not leave their places all year round, but only periodically wander in order to provide themselves with food.

White Wagtail: lifestyle description

As soon as spring begins, wagtails return to their places of origin. For settlement the birdie most often chooses river banks and open areas with low vegetation. That is why the wagtail can be seen running along the road in gardens and park areas.

The interesting thing is that this representative of birds likes to lead a terrestrial life. Their legs are very mobile and adapted for long walks on roads and lawns. If the city has enough green areas, the white wagtail quietly gets along close to people. In addition, in the summer, it serves as a good helper for humans, exterminating blood-sucking insects. They are very clever and quickly understand what the feeders are for, and use them if they do not leave the city in winter.

They boldly protect their territory from all birds, which they regard as enemies. In order to successfully guard their possessions, the male may allow another young male to settle near him, in order to frighten away the guests together. But as soon as the marriage period begins, this “symbiosis” stops, and they become competitors. Males of this species can be called aggressive towards each other. But it is interesting that at the sight of a hawk, the warring parties unite and begin to fight together. For wandering, these birds gather in flocks, and in late autumn, during the night, they all gather in the reeds.

Bird food

The white wagtail mainly eats insects, but can eat worms or spiders. Running along the ground, the bird looks out for its victim and devours it. She can also catch insects while in flight. For this, the wagtail hovers in the air, flapping its wings, and grabs its prey. Also, this bird can expect around water when an insect falls into the water. While the bug has not drowned or the fish has not eaten it, the wagtail lightning rushes to it and grabs it with its beak.

Mating season

As soon as the birds return from warm places, they are divided into pairs. Every year, wagtails pick up new partners for themselves. Each male occupies a plot for himself, on which he attracts his pair with singing. It looks like a twitter with different intonations. Very often they have to compete with other males. At the same time in relation to the opponent they behave aggressively. When it comes to the mating dance, the male lowers his head, bristling his tail and wings, outlining circles around him.

Having defined a pair, the birds stick together and mate a few days later. After they pick up a place for the nest - in the bushes, crevices, hollows, holes. Although both partners are working on the construction, the white wagtail female builds the main part of their house. These birds make a cup-shaped nest made of brushwood, moss, grass, roots. The bottom of the female carpeted down or wool. But the shape of the nest may depend on the selected location. In total, the construction of these birds can take from 6 to 12 days. But even after lining their nest, they may not inhabit it for several more days.

The appearance of chicks

Wagtails hatch the offspring twice a year - the first time in the spring, the other - in the middle of summer. Each laying 5-6 eggs, which are white, gray or bluish tint, may have different specks of brown or gray. Hatching lasts about two weeks. Only the female spends the night in the nest, and during the day he and the male alternately heat the clutch (the males do not incubate, but simply retain heat during the absence of the mother). Both parents take care of the chicks. They feed them and vehemently guard against all enemies and from their fellows. In this case, the enemies of these crumbs abound - predatory animals and birds. Chicks of the white wagtail begin to fly 2-3 weeks after birth and immediately leave the nest. Just a bird lives about 10 years.

Description of Wagtail

Motacilla has relatively few noticeable differences from any other representatives belonging to the family of wagtails.. The tail is long and narrow, straight cut, with two medium feathers, which are slightly longer than the side feathers. The very first primary feather is noticeably shorter than the second and third feathers. Characterized by the presence of a weakly bent claw on the back finger.


Representatives of the genus owe their name to the characteristics of the movements of the tail. Characteristics of the external description depend on the main species characteristics of the wagtail:

  • Pinto Wagtail - a bird with a body length of 19.0–20.5 cm, with a wing length of 8.4–10.2 cm and a tail length not more than 8.3–9.3 cm. The upper body is mostly black in color, and the throat and chin are white colored,
  • White Wagtail - a bird with an elongated tail and body length within 16-19 cm. Gray color predominates on the upper part of the body, white feathers dominate on the lower part of the body. Throat and cap black,
  • Mountain Wagtail - owner of a medium-sized body and a long tail. The appearance of the bird is similar to the description of the yellow wagtail, and the main difference is the presence of white “sides”, clearly contrasting with the bright yellow chest area and undertail,
  • Yellow-headed Wagtail - slender appearance of a bird with a maximum body length of no more than 15-17 cm with a wingspan of between 24-28 cm. With its entire color, it generally resembles a yellow wagtail.

The smallest representatives of the genus are Yellow Wagtails, or Plicas, whose body length is no more than 15-16 cm and weighs about 16-17 g.

Character and way of life

Each adult has its own territory, within which it hunts for prey. If there is no food within the site, then the bird goes in search of a new place, and once there, it notifies its arrival with a loud cry. If the owner of the territory does not respond to this cry, the bird proceeds to hunt.

Wagtails by nature are completely alien to aggressiveness, but in defending the borders of their territory such a bird is quite capable of attacking even its own reflection, which often becomes the cause of death of the feathered. Representatives of the genus settle in small flocks of small numbers of individuals, and when a predator appears on the territory of the predator, they fearlessly rush at it to protect the borders of their territory.

It is interesting! Hormones, which are produced by the pituitary of the feathered bird, inform the bird about the time of departure to the south, and the length of daylight starts the mechanism of the bird's “migration behavior”.

Representatives of the genus arrive with the onset of early spring, along with numerous lapwings. During this period, a sufficient number of mosquitoes does not appear yet, and other insects are almost invisible, so the wagtails try to keep close to the rivers, where water appears on the coastal areas and broken ice. It is on such places that different aquatic animals "dry out".

Sexual dimorphism

A markedly pronounced dimorphism is observed immediately in some species.. For example, males of the species Black-headed Wagtail during the mating season have a black velvet top head, bridle and neck top, and sometimes the front part of the back. The young bird after a molt in the fall is similar in the appearance to females. The color of males of the mountain wagtail during the breeding season is represented mainly by gray tones on the upper part of the whole body, and has a yellow color on the lower part, and the neck is very contrasting, black.

Wagtail species

Known species of the genus Wagtails:

  • M. feldegg, or the Black-headed Wagtail,
  • M. aguimp Dumont, or Pinto Wagtail,
  • M. alba Linnaeus, or White Wagtail,
  • M. capensis Linnaeus, or Cape Wagtail,
  • M. cinerea Tunstall, or Mountain Wagtail with M. subspecies. cinerea Tunstall, M.c. melanope Pallas, M.c. robusta, M.c. patriciae Vaurie, M.c. schmitzi Tschusi and M.c. canariensis,
  • M. citreola Pallas, or Yellow-headed Wagtail with subspecies Motacilla citreola citreola and Motacilla citreola qassatrix,
  • M. clara Sharpe, or Long-tailed Wagtail,
  • M. flava Linnaeus, or Yellow wagtail with sub-species M.f. flava, M.f. flavissima, M.f. thunbergi, M.f. iberiae, M.f. cinereocapilla, M.f. pygmaea, M.f. feldegg, M.f. lutea, M.f. beema, M.f. melanogrisea, M.f. plexa, M.f. tschutschensis, M.f. angarensis, M.f. leucocephala, M.f. taivana, M.f. macronyx and M.f. simillima
  • M. flaviventris Hartlaub, or Madagascar Wagtail,
  • M. grandis Sharpe, or Japanese Wagtail,
  • M. lugens Gloger, or Kamchatka Wagtail,
  • M. madaraspatensis J.F. Gmelin, or White-browed Wagtail.

In total, there are about fifteen species of wagtails living in Europe, Asia and Africa. In the CIS, there are five species - white, yellow-spin and yellow, as well as yellow-headed and mountain wagtails. For residents of the middle zone of our country, representatives of the White Wagtail type are more familiar.


In Europe, most species of wagtails are found, but the Yellow Wagtail is sometimes distinguished as a special genus (Burytes). The numerous black-headed wagtail is an inhabitant of wet meadows and lakeshores, covered with rare reeds or tall grass with sparse bushes. The resident bird The waggot often settles near human habitation, only in African countries south of the Sahara. The yellow wagtail, or pliska, which lives in vast areas of Asia and Europe, Alaska and Africa, has become widespread almost throughout the Palearctic belt.

White wagtails nest mainly in Europe and Asia, as well as in North Africa, but representatives of the species may well be found also in Alaska. The mountain wagtail is a typical inhabitant of all Eurasia, and a significant part of the population regularly hibernates only in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Birds of this species try to adhere to near-water biotopes, giving preference to the banks of streams and rivers, wet meadows and marshes.

It is interesting! It is considered that the territory of Mongolia and Eastern Siberia is the homeland of wagtails, and only much later such songbirds were able to settle throughout Europe and appeared in northern Africa.

In summer, the yellow-headed wagtail nests on fairly wet meadows in Siberia and in the tundra, but with the onset of winter the bird migrates to the territory of South Asia. The long-tailed wagtail or mountain wagtail is characterized by a wide range in Africa and in countries located south of the Sahara, including Angola and Botswana, Burundi and Cameroon. All representatives of the species inhabit the shores of forest turbulent flows within the subtropics or tropical dry forest zones, and also occur in humid subtropics or the tropics of mountain forests.

Wagtail Diet

Absolutely all of the representatives belonging to the family of Wagtail, feed exclusively on insects, while their birds are able to catch even during the flight. Birds feed in a very unusual way, and the caught wings first turn off the wings alternately, after which the prey is quickly eaten. Often, for hunting, the wagtail is chosen by the shores of water bodies, where the larvae of small mollusks or caddisfishes can become their prey.

The food of wagtails is mainly represented by small dipterous insects, including mosquitoes and flies, which are easily swallowed by birds. In addition, representatives of the genus quite willingly eat all kinds of bugs and caddisflies. Sometimes such small birds can afford to eat small berries or seeds of plants.

It is interesting! Small-sized birds bring enormous benefits - wagtails very willingly feed near places of grazing for domestic or wild hoofed animals and eat horseflies, as well as many other blood-sucking and annoying insects right from their backs.

The ration of a pliska includes various small invertebrates in the form of spiders and bedbugs, creepers and beetles, flies and riders, caterpillars and butterflies, mosquitoes and ants. Insectivorous birds, as a rule, search for their prey only on the ground, very quickly and easily moving among the grass.

Reproduction and offspring

With the onset of spring, the female and male begin the active gathering of small branches, moss, roots and shoots, which are used by birds in the construction of a cone-shaped nest. The main condition for nesting an adult wagtail is the presence of nearby water.

Females start laying eggs from the first decade of May, and in the clutch they often have from four to seven eggs, of which after about a couple of weeks the chicks hatch, and the female quickly throws the whole shell from the nest.

From May to July, the wagtail has time to make two clutches. Chicks born to the world, as a rule, have gray, yellow or white-black plumage.

It is interesting! Wagtails nest a couple of times during the summer period, using for these purposes chinks in the walls, the rafter system under the bridges, soil depressions, hollows and under-root space of vegetation, and the twisted nest is sufficiently loose and lined with hair or shreds from the inside.

Both parents take care of the feed of their chicks, which in turn are sent to catch insects. After a couple of weeks, the chicks are already fledging and quickly stand on the wing. В конце июня и начале июля вместе со своими родителями подросшие птенцы начинают учиться летать, а с наступлением осени птичьи стаи устремляются в южном направлении.

Естественные враги

Самыми частыми врагами трясогузки являются домашние и дикие кошки, ласки и куницы, а также вороны и кукушки, многие хищные птицы. При появлении врагов трясогузки не улетают, а напротив, начинают очень громко кричать. Иногда такого поведения бывает вполне достаточно, чтобы прогнать врагов от гнезда или стаи.

Популяция и статус вида

Most species are not endangered or vulnerable, and the population of some members of the genus is noticeably decreasing. On the territory of the Moscow Region, the meadow species is quite widespread and common. Representatives of the species by status belong to the third category - vulnerable birds of Moscow.

Spring Arrival

They live:

  • in Europe,
  • Asia,
  • Africa

On a fairly warm, comfortable land, they lead a sedentary life. Residents of cool habitats migrate to Africa and back.

By the nature of the wagtail not only optimists, but also patriots. Philopaths. Scientists call such a beautiful word love for the motherland among animals. More precisely, the desire to return to the place of his birth. And the phenomenon when the same individuals breed regularly in the same specific area - breeding conservatism. And although wagtails, like most insectivorous birds, fly southward for the winter, in the spring they try to return to their small homeland.

Still quite a lot of snow lies in the forest, in the fields and in the ravines. But spring warmth has already begotten the morning mists. The sun drowns ice and snow in a liquid slurry. Collects in puddles.

And now, following the rooks, larks, starlings, the first wagtails are already fussing. Run, argue, full of strength and energy. But vanity and twitter just seem nonchalant. Very soon the birds will be concerned about finding a suitable nesting site.

Where the wagtail makes the nest

White Wagtail, perhaps most creative in choosing nesting. Special love for these birds to different techniques. An abandoned harvester, an idle tractor or a barge stranded, in the hold of which a nest can be made, are not random, but favorite nesting sites for white wagtails. Another passion - the construction of man. More precisely, all sorts of cracks and niches where you can make a nest and live.

In settlements, the proximity of roads, tram tracks, not only do not bother the fearless wagtails, but also seems to attract. All possible bird nesting sites are not listed. Nest can be found anywhere.

Nesting time

It takes 1-2 weeks to build a nest in a wagtail. Then a couple of days the nest can stand idle. Finally, the female can lay one egg per day. The first eggs in the clutches can be found at the end of April. Full masonry wagtails are found in early June. By this time, all the eggs, and normally it is 5-6 pieces, are laid. And the bird is taken for a dense hatching.

The cuckoo is well aware of the schedule for the white wagtail, which lays its eggs in the nest. Thus, it is one of the main educators of the cuckoo. And it is not surprising - the care of chicks in a wagtail bird can be considered exemplary.

How to distinguish the female from the male

Should pay attention to the color of the head. It is dull in the female. Individual feathers look like gray markings. The male "skullcap" is more black, contrasting with the plumage of the back. You can still notice the difference in the color of the wings. Although it is rather individual differences, but they can be guided by.

In terms of behavior in the nest, the female has an advantage. Therefore, when the male arrives, he tries to quickly feed the feed to the chicks and run away.

The repair of the nest is also more the prerogative of the female. The male can only take away the remnants of food or garbage.

Departure of chicks

After leaving the nest, chicks, parents feed another week. Moreover, the brood is often split into two parts. One of which is taken by the male, the second by the female. During the summer, part of the wagtails has time to raise chicks twice.

In the second half of summer, youth interspersed with adults is often found at the water's edge. In open puddles, near the road wagtails regular visitors. Here and the kitchen and bathroom in one place. And wagtails love to run along paths, dirt and asphalt roads and collect knocked down or fallen insects. Some inexperienced and unwary birds often themselves become victims of heavy traffic.

White Wagtail is in constant motion, continuous work on yourself, in order to best meet the environmental conditions. Her lively character, amazing tolerance for change and ability to adapt allow her to thrive in all conditions. Whether it is a wild nature reserve or noisy concreted metropolis.