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Pied or White Wagtail? (1 Viewer)

Louis_P

Average Birder
Is this a Pied or White Wagtail? Taken on 13th April 2017 in the Norfolk countryside. Is there a simple way to tell them apart?

Thanks,
Louis
 

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osprey123

Well-known member
Hi Louis, its a White Wagtail. Easiest way to tell adult birds apart is by the colour of the mantle (back). Grey in White Wagtail and Black in Pied Wagtail.
 

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
Hi Louis, its a White Wagtail. Easiest way to tell adult birds apart is by the colour of the mantle (back). Grey in White Wagtail and Black in Pied Wagtail.

But female Pied Wagtails are greyish on the back too, so this is not reliable. I would be hesitant to say what subspecies this bird is, but I would perhaps err towards a Pied.
 

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
Isn't it peak time for the Icelandic whites to be passing - just saying as he dives for the book....

If I saw this I would call it alba (white)
 
Last edited:

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
Isn't it peak time for the Icelandic whites to be passing - just saying as he dives for the book....

If I saw this I would call it alba (white)

It is but there are still a lot more Pieds in most places. It could be White, but to me it looks a bit on the dark end for that subspecies. On a picture like this I wouldn't want to commit. Some Pieds can look a lot like this.
 

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
The question was raised about White Wagtail migration before.

Nutcraker said this
Surprised you've had so few - virtually the entire Icelandic White Wagtail population passes through Britain and/or Ireland on spring and autumn migration, and that's probably not far short of the total population size of Pied Wag. One of the commoner inland passage birds in Britain, though surprisingly tricky to ID juveniles in the autumn.
 

davercox

Dave Cox
Supporter
So no, there isn't always a simple way to tell them apart. Based on flank colour I'd put this as M.a.alba but I'm not sure.

Have a look here.
 

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor of Listening
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
The question was raised about White Wagtail migration before.

Nutcraker said this
Surprised you've had so few - virtually the entire Icelandic White Wagtail population passes through Britain and/or Ireland on spring and autumn migration, and that's probably not far short of the total population size of Pied Wag. One of the commoner inland passage birds in Britain, though surprisingly tricky to ID juveniles in the autumn.

Although they are not, in my experience, very evenly distributed. Migrating Whites are much more numerous in the west than the east, where the OP's picture was taken. Also, although the Icelandic population of Whites may be close in size to the British population of Pieds (I've no idea to be honest, although the UK Pied population is c.500,000 pairs and the only estimate I can find for Whites in Iceland is 50,000 pairs i.e. 10x less) they probably won't all be here at the same time, so the numbers in Britain at any one time would be lower than the total population. Pieds are, of course, widespread and common throughout lowland Britain.
 

dwatsonbirder

Well-known member
I agree with Andrew, I think this is yarrellii, probably a female - though given the image quality a definitive identification isn't possible. There is definitely a bias in terms of records, having grown up in Norfolk I'd call White regular in small numbers/scarce, whereas here in Somerset, they can frequently outnumber Pied - e.g. yesterday I saw approximately 40 alba to 25 or so yarrellii. The mantle tone doesn't look pale enough for alba to me, though of course seeing the rump would be the clincher... I suspect this one was blackish!
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
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