Garden Wildlife
             Garden Wildlife
       Garden Wildlife
             Garden Wildlife
White wagtail Motacilla alba alba
 
In most respects this continental sub-species is the same as the British yarrellii form and the two overlap when the white wagtails join the pied residents in spring and summer.  They all migrate south to the Mediterranean and Africa in the autumn as the supply of insects decreases in Britain and Ireland.
 
The white wagtail has a lighter grey back where the pied wagtail has a black back in the male, and a darker grey back in the female.  Juvenile pied are lighter grey and harder to distinguish when you see them in late summer.  However, migratory white wagtails have to complete their moult before leaving, and so look spick and span in the early autumn, while the resident pieds are still moulting and look a bit scruffy.
 
Reference
 
1.  Buczacki, S. (2002) Fauna Britannica Hamlyn London p325-6
 
Finding out more:
 
BTO profile on pied wagtail
RSPB profile on pied wagtail
 
 
Page written and compiled by Steve Head
Pied wagtail  Motacilla alba yarrellii
 
The pied wagtail is a very distinctive partially resident bird, recorded in 13% of gardens.  It is a British and Irish subspecies of the white wagtail Motacilla alba alba, which is a summer visitor to northern Europe and the British Isles.  Their folk name used to include "nanny washtail" and "dishwasher" because their black and white plumage reminded people of uniformed domestic maids at their work.1.
What do they eat?
 
Pied wagtails are insect and spider eaters, feeding off the ground in short grass, so they like grazed pastures and larger domestic lawns.  In the winter they will take seeds and other offerings on the lawn or ground level bird table.
 
Where do they breed?
 
The nest in holes and cavities in trees and also in buildings and will sometimes use open-fronted nest boxes. They usually manage two broods of about 5 eggs in a year
 
What do they do?
 
Pied wagtails are busy birds when you see them running over the lawn or even a bare driveway – places where they can find and capture small insects. Their tail wags up and down continuously, giving them their name.  They often congregate in flocks in the winter to roost, liking reedbeds and large buildings.  Although generally resident, many pied wagtails in the north of Britain fly to the south of the country in the winter, while some of the southern birds fly south to France and Spain.
 
How are they doing?
 
They are rated amber for conservation status having declined by about a quarter in the last 20 years (particularly in Scotland), having previously increased considerably from 1960 to 1980. The British population is about half a million pairs.
 
What do they sound like?
 
The song is a complicated twittering, while the call is an abrupt “tchick” sound
   
               Song                                           Call
 
Simon Elliott, XC596084. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/596084.
Luis Leon, XC702044. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/702044.
White wagtail Motacilla alba alba
 
In most respects this continental sub-species is the same as the British yarrellii form and the two overlap when the white wagtails join the pied residents in spring and summer.  They all migrate south to the Mediterranean and Africa in the autumn as the supply of insects decreases in Britain and Ireland.
 
The white wagtail has a lighter grey back where the pied wagtail has a black back in the male, and a darker grey back in the female.  Juvenile pied are lighter grey and harder to distinguish when you see them in late summer.  However, migratory white wagtails have to complete their moult before leaving, and so look spick and span in the early autumn, while the resident pieds are still moulting and look a bit scruffy.
 
Reference
 
Buczacki, S. (2002) Fauna Britannica Hamlyn London p325-6
 
Finding out more:
 
BTO profile on pied wagtail
RSPB profile on pied wagtail
 
 
Page written and compiled by Steve Head
What do they eat?
 
Pied wagtails are insect and spider eaters, feeding off the ground in short grass, so they like grazed pastures and larger domestic lawns.  In the winter they will take seeds and other offerings on the lawn or ground level bird table.
 
Where do they breed?
 
The nest in holes and cavities in trees and also in buildings and will sometimes use open-fronted nest boxes. They usually manage two broods of about 5 eggs in a year
 
What do they do?
 
Pied wagtails are busy birds when you see them running over the lawn or even a bare driveway – places where they can find and capture small insects. Their tail wags up and down continuously, giving them their name.  They often congregate in flocks in the winter to roost, liking reedbeds and large buildings.  Although generally resident, many pied wagtails in the north of Britain fly to the south of the country in the winter, while some of the southern birds fly south to France and Spain.
 
How are they doing?
 
They are rated amber for conservation status having declined by about a quarter in the last 20 years (particularly in Scotland), having previously increased considerably from 1960 to 1980. The British population is about half a million pairs.
 
What do they sound like?
 
The song is a complicated twittering, while the call is an abrupt “tchick” sound
   
                  Song                                                   Call
 
Pied wagtail  Motacilla alba yarrellii
 
The pied wagtail is a very distinctive partially resident bird, recorded in 13% of gardens.  It is a British and Irish subspecies of the white wagtail Motacilla alba alba, which is a summer visitor to northern Europe and the British Isles.  Their folk name used to include "nanny washtail" and "dishwasher" because their black and white plumage reminded people of uniformed domestic maids at their work.1.