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Cape Wagtail - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Max Holdt
Kleinmond, Cape, South Africa, December 2004
Motacilla capensis


L. 20 cm, Wt. 20 g

  • Dull olive grey
  • Dull off-white below
  • Blackish breast band
  • White supercilium
  • White edges to wing feathers
  • Dark grey-brown tail
Photo by GiGi
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, September 2006


Sub-Saharan Africa: DRC, Uganda and Kenya in the north to southern South Africa.



Motacilla capensis has three subspecies:

  • M. c. simplicissima
  • Southern DRC, Zambia, Angola, Caprivi (north-eastern Namibia), northern Botswana and extreme western Zimbabwe.
  • Swamp-dwelling form; more olive than nominate, underparts yellowish, dark breast spot rather than breast band.
Photo by GarethH
Strand, Western Cape, South Africa, December 2005
  • M. c. capensis
  • M. c. wellsi


Almost anywhere where there is water with open ground nearby, from fynbos to forest edge and through alpine grasslands to the Namib Desert.




Usually forages by walking purposefully, picking or darting after insects. Also wades through shallow water, picking prey in or over water. Mainly insects, dead or alive, including moths, dragonflies, ants, caterpillars, beetles, mosquitoes and termites.


Solitary nester retaining same mate for successive breeding attempts and will attack its reflection in glass or metal during breeding season. Nest has a bulky base built of grasses, weeds, roots, pine needles and seedpods.


  1. Clements, JF. 2009. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to December 2009. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019.

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