Bird Families

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The yellow wagtail (lat.Motacilla flava) is a bird from the Wagtail family (Motacillidae). It differs from the white wagtail in its shorter tail and smaller size.

In adults, the plumage on the abdomen acquires a rich, bright yellow color.

In Ancient Egypt, this bird was considered the embodiment of the god-demiurge Atum, who created himself out of primitive chaos and existed at the beginning of time. She emerged from the silt in the midst of endless waters and symbolized the creation of the world.

Later in Greek mythology, she turned into a magical phoenix bird, which became a symbol of immortality.


This species is distributed mainly in Central, Southern and Southeastern Europe. Birds living in the Mediterranean region are sedentary, and the rest make seasonal migrations of various distances, going for the winter to the south of the European continent or to Africa south of the Sahara.

The subspecies M.f.flava and M.f. Thunbergi also nest in the Palaearctic belt of Asia, most often in Northwest Siberia, and winter in East Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.

Many zoologists consider the subspecies Motacilla tschutchensis as a separate species. It is found in Transbaikalia, Manchuria, Mongolia, Kamchatka, Alaska, Sakhalin and a number of islands in the Bering Sea, and winters in southern China, Myanmar, India, Indonesia and Australia.

The yellow wagtail is unpretentious in choosing its place of residence. It is found on arable land, marshlands, wet meadows and the seashore, river banks, lakes and other bodies of water.

As a rule, the bird prefers open areas, especially places of grazing of ungulates, whose waste products attract many insects.


Yellow wagtails feed almost exclusively on food of animal origin. They eat small spiders, molluscs, insects and their larvae. Flies (Brachycera), mosquitoes (Nematocera), ants (Formicoidea), termites (Isoptera) and haymakers (Opiliones) are their victims.

Birds catch prey on the fly, on the ground and plant leaves.

In late summer and autumn, they often fly over large ungulate mammals and grab insects circling above them or located directly on their bodies. The bird gets most of its food among low vegetation, under the feet of cattle and horses. She overtakes the victim, doing races or moving at a fast run.

Yellow wagtails are very careful and try not to attract undue attention to themselves during the hunt. They feed in small groups, and at night they gather in flocks for a joint overnight.


Sexual maturity in representatives of this species occurs at the age of about one year. The mating season and breeding take place in Europe from April to July. Wagtails can raise two broods per season.

The birds create monogamous pairs that persist until the end of the nesting period. Both spouses defend the boundaries of their home lot. The nest is built by the female only. She builds it on the surface of the soil, hiding it under bushes, less often under stones.

Soft blades of grass, feathers and animal hair are used as building materials.

In May, the female lays 5-6 whitish eggs with gray-brownish specks measuring 21x15 mm. Incubation lasts 13-14 days. Parents feed the chicks with spiders and small insects.

After two weeks, they leave the nest, and a little later they become on the wing. In late June or early July, their parents, under favorable conditions, begin to incubate the second brood.


The body length of adults is 15-16 cm, the wingspan is 24-27 cm. Weight is 16-20 g. Females are slightly smaller than males. Sexual dimorphism manifests itself mainly during the mating season.

The head of the males is yellow-green or grayish with a clearly visible yellow edging. Their chest and abdomen are light yellow, and the back is yellowish-green.

The long tail is colored black. Flight feathers are brown. Two narrow white stripes run through the wings. Females are dominated by gray-green color. Their abdomen is gray-brown with a whitish edging. Juveniles are predominantly gray-brownish.

The average life span of yellow wagtails is 6 years. Some specimens live up to 8-9 years.

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Birds of Crimea

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  • Birds starting with the letter T
Latin name:Motacilla
English name:Wagtail
A type:Chordates
Body length:10-16 cm
Wing length:8.1-9.5 cm
Wingspan:24-27 cm
Weight:17-30 g
  • 1 Description of the bird
    • 1.1 What it looks like
    • 1.2 Why is it called so
    • 1.3 Male and female: differences
  • 2 Lifestyle
    • 2.1 Migratory bird or not
    • 2.2 Nutrition
  • 3 Distribution
    • 3.1 Range
    • 3.2 Habitats
  • 4 Types
    • 4.1 White Wagtail
    • 4.2 Mountain Wagtail
    • 4.3 Long-tailed wagtail
    • 4.4 Yellow Wagtail
    • 4.5 Yellow-headed Wagtail
    • 4.6 Madagascar Wagtail
    • 4.7 Pinto wagtail
    • 4.8 Black-headed Wagtail
  • 5 Home maintenance
  • 6 Interesting facts
  • 7 Singing
  • 8 Wagtail house
    • 8.1 Drawing
    • 8.2 Materials and dimensions

What does it look like

Plumage color of birds is dominated by black, gray and white colors. Wagtails are distinguished by high legs, straight thin legs, a thin straight beak and a long tail, which the bird typically shakes while running on the ground in search of food. We can easily recognize the wagtail as a bird with a quivering tail.

Why is it called so

While hunting for food, the wagtail quickly moves along the ground in different directions and at the same time dynamically shakes (shakes) its tail up and down. This behavior is the answer to the question why was the wagtail named wagtail (the bird shakes its tail). The tail is the tail wedge-shaped part of the bird's body, the rear. (Dictionary by T.F. Efremov.)

Male and female: differences

Sexual dimorphism is weak. Usually females and juveniles appear paler than males. In some species, for example, in the black-headed wagtail, significant differences are noticeable - the color of the male is rich with bright black, yellow, white colors, while the females look unremarkable and are painted in olive-brown tones.


Most wagtails keep near the water in separate families or in small flocks, wagtails nest on the ground or in hollows.

Migratory bird or not

Wagtails - migratory birds... But migration depends on the habitat of each specific population. Basically, all species of birds of the northern regions are migratory birds. Wagtails hibernate in southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Endemic to the African continent, the Madagascar Islands are sedentary birds.

Unlike most small birds, it moves on the ground not by jumping, but by running.


It looks like a wagtail bird sitting on a wire

The white wagtail often settles near humans. For nesting, these birds prefer areas located near fresh water bodies, lakes and rivers, as well as marshlands and deciduous forests.

White wagtail

Latin name: Motacilla alba
Weight: 24 g
Highest classification: Wagtails
Conservation status: Least Concern

The body length of the bird is 15-19 cm, weight is 24 g. The plumage on the back is gray, the abdomen is white. The head is painted white, decorated with black feathers on the throat and in the form of a cap. The bird has a long, characteristic tail.

The species is common in Asia, Europe, North Africa, and Alaska. In warm areas, it is sedentary, and the northern populations migrate to Africa for the winter.

Mountain wagtail

Latin name: Motacilla cinerea
Weight: 17 g
Highest classification: Wagtails
Conservation status: Least Concern

Body length 17-20 cm, with a long tail characteristic of the species. The plumage of the male during the nesting period is mainly gray on the back and yellow on the belly with white sides. The neck is black, which distinguishes the mountain wagtail from its closest relative, the yellow wagtail.

The bird lives in North Africa and Eurasia. The majority of the population are migratory birds that migrate to tropical Africa in winter.

For nesting, the mountain wagtail chooses areas near water bodies - the banks of streams, rivers, swamps, wet meadows.

Long tailed wagtail

Latin name: Motacilla clara
16 g
Highest classification:
Conservation status:
Least Concern

The bird is found in Africa (Angola, Burundi, Botswana, Cameroon) in tropical and subtropical mountain forests. The color of the plumage is dominated by shades of gray. The top of the bird is darker, the bottom is light gray. The wings are black with white.

Yellow wagtail

Latin name: Motacilla flava
Weight: 18 g (adult)
Highest classification: Wagtails
Conservation status: Least Concern

The smallest representative of the genus of wagtails with a body length of 15 cm and a weight of 18 g. The yellow wagtail is a slender bird with a long tail. The top of males and females is gray with a greenish or brownish tint. The wings are brown-buffy. The tail is dark brown with white feathers. The legs are black. Bird subspecies differ in characteristic patterns on the head.

A distinctive feature of the species is the bright yellow plumage of the belly and breast in males, and pale yellow in females. Young growth is colored gray-brown.

The species range is Eurasia, northern Africa, Alaska. The bird nests in swamps, wet meadows, along the banks of rivers and lakes.

Yellow-headed wagtail

Latin name: Motacilla citreola
Weight: 19 g
Highest classification: Wagtails
Conservation status: Least Concern

A slender bird with a body length of 17 cm and a long tail, a wingspan of 24 - 28 cm. Outwardly it is very reminiscent of a yellow wagtail. But the yellow color in its plumage is more pronounced in the head area. The abdomen is usually light yellow or gray.

During the nesting period, the species lives in wet meadows and in the Siberian tundra, for the winter it flies to the south of Asia.

Madagascar Wagtail

Latin name:Motacilla flaviventris
Weight:18 g
Highest classification:Wagtails
Conservation status:Least Concern

The species is common on the island of Madagascar, where it lives in subtropical or tropical regions, in the lower reaches of fields and rivers. Outwardly, it is very similar to the white wagtail, slightly lighter in plumage.

Piebald wagtail

Latin name: Motacilla aguimp
Weight: 27 g
Highest classification: Wagtails
Conservation status: Least Concern

The bird has a body length of 20 cm, a wingspan of 20 - 25 cm, a tail length of 9 cm. The back is painted black, a white wide "eyebrow" stands out on the head, the chin and neck are white. The tummy and wings are also mostly white.

The species is sedentary, found only in sub-Saharan Africa. Often nests next to human habitation at altitudes up to 3000 meters above sea level.

Black-headed wagtail

Latin name: Motacilla feldegg
Weight: 15-18 g
Highest classification: Wagtails
Conservation status: Least Concern

The weight of the bird reaches 18 g, the wingspan is 20 cm, the tail length is 8 cm. The plumage of the male during the nesting period in the region of the head, neck and upper back is coal-black. The head is sometimes decorated with a white or yellow "eyebrow". The top of the bird is gray-yellowish-green, the belly is bright yellow or white. The wings are brownish with separate white and yellow feathers. The legs and beak are black.

The female from above is painted greenish-brown with a gray uppertail. The plumage of young birds is dominated by brown tones with black streaks.

Migratory species, distributed in Europe and Asia.

Home content

The white wagtail is often kept in captivity. The bird slowly gets used to home conditions, although it is not afraid of people. Sings often and melodiously.

For its maintenance, you will need a large cage or a spacious aviary with perches and crossbars. Also, a wagtail, in addition to a drinker, must have a separate bathing container.

In their diet, wagtails are not picky, they willingly eat a mixture for insectivorous birds with the addition of bloodworms or mealworms, a soft mixture (cottage cheese, yolk, carrots, gammarus).

Breeding wagtails in captivity is not practiced.

Interesting Facts

  • The wagtail is the official symbol of Latvia.
  • In nature, wagtails live for 10 years, in captivity for 12 years.
  • The wagtail is also called an icebreaker, since the bird returns from wintering to the beginning of the ice drift on the rivers.
  • The diet of wagtails includes flies and mosquitoes, as well as insect pests, which makes the bird useful for humans, especially in rural areas.


The song of the wagtails is sweet, but uncomplicated. The males chirp cheerfully and cheerfully during the mating season, either making soft squeaking sounds, then loudly chirping, then quietly chirping. By the way, only during singing does the male wagtail stop making characteristic movements with its tail.

House for wagtail

A wagtail house is different from a birdhouse because a wagtail needs room to shake its tail. It should be rectangular with a length of 40 cm, a width of 15 cm and a height of about 15 cm. It is recommended to move the front wall of the house inward by 10 cm, to form a "balcony with a roof" on which the bird will walk. The 6 cm wide entrance hole is made in full height. It is better to make such a house from a pine board 1.5-2 cm wide.