The wagtail, a small bird with a yellow belly


As its name suggests, the gray wagtail is found near stream lively. The species with cryptic plumage can be recognized by its yellow belly. Portrait of a small passerine bird that nods its tail when it feeds.

The white wagtail: identity card

The wagtail of the brooks (Motacilla cinerea) is a species of birds frequenting open grassy environments, often close to water. The animal belongs to the Motacillidae family, passerines Small to medium in size, with long tail, long legs and toes with large fingernails. We recense 3 subspecies white wagtails:

  • Motacilla cinerea cinerea (Canary Islands, Europe, North Africa, and from Siberia to Japan);
  • Motacilla cinerea patriciae (Azores);
  • Motacilla cinerea schmitzi (Madeira).

Description of the gray wagtail

The gray wagtail presents a sexual dimorphism pronounced. In breeding plumage, the male can be recognized by his black bib which contrasts sharply with his mustache and thin white eyebrows. The head and back are ash-gray while the belly and rump are colored yellow. The breeding female resembles male, but lacks a black bib, at most a few greyish mini-spots. Legs and feet are pinkish. In winter, the male loses his black bib and then looks like a female: the underparts are much less yellow, except at the level of the undertail, and the flanks are whitish. The bird is about 18 cm long and weighs on average 18 gr.

Distribution of the gray wagtail

The range of the Gray Wagtail extends from the islands of theAtlantic (Canaries, Madeira, Azores) to Siberia then all of Eurasia. Eurasian populations will spend the winter in South, around the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, India, Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Northern European troops usually move to southern Europe and North Africa. The species is sedentary in Western Europe, as in France where the high-altitude bird simply descends towards the valleys to escape the harsh winter conditions.

Stream wagtail habitat

The species is very dependent on water (current and preferably shallow), where it finds its food and nests. The White Wagtail frequents fast flowing streams that cross wooded areas, open countryside, but also hills and regions. mountainous, up to 4000 m altitude in the Himalayas. During the mating season, she also frequents the edges of lakes and canals where she hides her nest in a crevasse, a hole or any other hollow available in plant material, between stones or roots. Outside the breeding season, the bird frequents a wide variety of habitats, migrating to plains, on the coasts, in estuaries, forest roads, farmyards even in city if a water point is there.

Behavior of the gray wagtail

The wagtail is distinguished by its way of wandering along the water’s edge. Unlike the hopping sparrow, this little sparrow market. When feeding on the ground, the bird hastily moves on its large legs and then wags its tail up and down when it stops. Its morphological attribute, longer than in other species, accentuates the characteristic vertical movements of the species and has earned it the nickname of nodding. During the winter, creek wagtails often congregate to sleep in small groups. During the breeding season, the monogamous male shows itself strongly territorial and ardently defends its habitat and its resources. Along with its song and protective flight, it can deploy the yellow feathers of its rump in intimidation.

Stream wagtail diet

White Wagtail consumes a variety ofaquatic insects and their larvae captured on the shores but also amphipod crustaceans, small mollusks and some tadpoles found in the water. The bird feeds by walking, running or steering wheel over a short distance to catch spotted prey from a perch. The White Wagtail does not disdain insects exclusively terrestrial like beetles, orthoptera or spiders.

Breeding wagtail

In Western Europe, the breeding season takes place between late March-early April, until August for a second or even a second. third brood. When they have found the perfect location, the two adults participate in the construction of the nest using twigs, blades of grass, small roots and moss. Their lodging consists of a platform With a cut in the center and lined with a thin layer of vegetable fibers, hair and horsehair. The female lays 4-6 shiny, cream-colored eggs with gray markings. The couple incubate for 11 to 13 days and then feed their chicks for two to three weeks. After their offspring have fledged, adults may consider second brood.

Protection of the white wagtail

The Gray Wagtail is not considered a species threate. Thanks to its great adaptability to a wide variety of habitats, its population is largely widespread. A recent expansion has also been observed in Scandinavia, a phenomenon probably due to the global warming. The bird has benefited from total protection on French territory since nineteen eighty one. As such, it is prohibited to hunt, kill or capture it. It is also forbidden to destroy its nests or eggs. The life expectancy of the Gray Wagtail rarely exceeds 4 years.