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Western Yellow Wagtail

From Opus

(Redirected from Yellow Wagtail)
flavissimaPhoto by MahslebAbberton Reservoir, England, April 2008
Photo by Mahsleb
Abberton Reservoir, England, April 2008
Motacilla flava


[edit] Identification

flavissimaPhoto by nigelblakeBedfordshire, UK, June 2008
Photo by nigelblake
Bedfordshire, UK, June 2008

16·5 cm (6½ in)
A wagtail with many plumage variations but all show uniform yellow breast and vent, most of the variation is to the head. A relatively short tail allows for differentiation of the grey headed varieties from the similar Grey Wagtail

[edit] Variation and Similar Species

The races which have grey heads may look superficially like Grey Wagtails but they usually have greener or browner backs. The shorter tails and different calls of the yellow wagtails are always conclusive. There are many races shown in the gallery.

The main differences between the various races are described in the Taxonomy section.

Thread discussing identification of females.

[edit] Distribution

Common and widespread summer visitor to the region in a variety of races. Breeds in Britain (but absent from Ireland and most of Scotland), much of France and Iberia and east to the Urals and Caspian, reaching north to the White Sea in Russia. Occurs south to the north Mediterranean coast, Balearics, Sardinia, Crete and Cyprus, throughout Turkey and at a few scattered sites in the Middle East such as Azraq in Jordan and the Hula Swamp in Israel. In North Africa found on the Banc D'Arguin of Mauritania, from Morocco to Tunisia and in the Nile Delta and Valley. Siberian races winter in India, Indochina, the Philippines, Indonesia south to Australia.

North African populations and those from the Caucasus are resident or only partial migrants but most birds winter in sub-Saharan Africa. Small numbers may also occur in winter in southern Spain. Present on breeding grounds April-May until August-October, rarely later.

Vagrants recorded north to Bear Island, Iceland and Faroes and west to the Azores and Madeira.

feldegg, Black-headed WagtailPhoto by lior kislevArava, Israel, March 2008
feldegg, Black-headed Wagtail
Photo by lior kislev
Arava, Israel, March 2008

[edit] Taxonomy

Eastern Yellow Wagtail from Siberia was formerly included in this species.

[edit] Subspecies

thunbergi, Grey-headed WagtailPhoto by MacswedeFulufjallet National Park, Sweden, July 2008
thunbergi, Grey-headed Wagtail
Photo by Macswede
Fulufjallet National Park, Sweden, July 2008
lutea, Khirgiz Steppe Wagtaillior kislevEylat, Israel, May 2008
lutea, Khirgiz Steppe Wagtail
lior kislev
Eylat, Israel, May 2008
iberiae, Spanish WagtailPhoto by john-henryExtremadura, Spain, May 2005
iberiae, Spanish Wagtail
Photo by john-henry
Extremadura, Spain, May 2005

About 10-12 races occur in the Region differing mainly in head patterns of breeding male. Some races are considered full species by some authorities.

    • M.f. flava and M.f. flavissima form a narrow hybrid zone in northern France. Birds from this zone vary in appearance, but one type, which resembles nominate Blue-headed Wagtail (except that the blue tones to the head are paler and more mauve and the white of the head is more extensive, particularly on the throat, ear-coverts, and supercilium) is colloquially referred to as Channel Wagtail. [Link to Channel Wagtail image]
  • M.f. beema, Sykes's Wagtail, breeds in Russia, migrates through Arabia the Middle East and India. Ash-grey crown and ear-coverts, broad white supercilium.
  • M.f. leucocephala, White-headed Wagtail, breeds in Mongolia, rare visitor to the Middle East, head white, ear coverts very pale grey.
  • M.f. cinereocapilla, Ashy-headed Wagtail, breeds Italy, Sardinia, Sicily and parts of east Adriatic coast, migrates through North Africa. Vagrant to Britain. Grey crown darker than flava, supercilium faint of absent.
  • M.f. iberiae, Spanish Wagtail, breeds Iberian Peninsula and southern France, North-West Africa, migrates through North Africa. Grey crown darker than flava, narrow white supercilium, mainly or entirely behind eye. [[1]]
  • M.f. pygmaea, Egyptian Wagtail, resident in Egypt. Small size, greenish-grey crown, blackish-green ear-coverts, white chin, dark blotches on breast-sides and little or no supercilium.
  • M.f. thunbergi, Grey-headed Wagtail, breeds in northern Scandinavia and Russia, migrates through North Africa and Middle East. Dark grey crown, black ear-coverts, no supercilium, chin and throat yellow.
  • M.f. feldegg, Black-headed Wagtail, breeds Balkans, Turkey and the Near East, migrates through Algeria, Libya and Egypt, Arabia and Middle East. Vagrant to Britain (<10 records). Crown and ear-coverts black, no supercilium, underparts entirely yellow. Sometimes considered to merit full species rank. [[2]]
  • M.f. melanogrisea, breeds in south Russia and migrates south-east through Iran. Head black, olive back paler than feldegg, paler yellow below, chin white. [3]
  • M.f. lutea, Khirgiz Steppe Wagtail, breeds in southern Russia from Lower Volga eastwards, migrates through Arabia and adjacent Middle East. Head yellow with olive ear-coverts, upperparts olive-green, entirely yellow below.
  • M.f. flavissima, Yellow Wagtail, breeds Britain and coastal north-western Europe, migrates through North-West Africa. Crown and ear-coverts olive-green, forehead and supercilium yellow, underparts entirely yellow. The bird pictured is of the subspecies flavissima.

A couple of other forms are sometimes given names that look similar to subspecies but without formal recognition as such. These include "dombrowski" and "superciliaris".

[edit] Habitat

Lowland grassland and wet meadows.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Flight

Markedly dipping flight. Walks and runs, constantly dipping tail.

[edit] Diet

The diet includes small insects, flies and beetles.

[edit] Breeding

They are inclined to breed in small colonies, nesting in tussocks, laying 4-8 speckled eggs.

[edit] Vocalisation

Photo by RASHEDKuwait, March 2010
Photo by RASHED
Kuwait, March 2010

Listen in an external program

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from
  2. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966

[edit] External Links

beemaPhoto by Alok TewariOkhla Bird Sanctuary, India, Jan-2013
Photo by Alok Tewari
Okhla Bird Sanctuary, India, Jan-2013


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