Bird Families

Yellow wagtail - Rtischevskaya encyclopedia


Description of wagtail

Motacilla has relatively few noticeable differences from any other members of the wagtail family.... The tail is long and narrow, straight cut, with two middle feathers, which are slightly longer than the side feathers. The very first flight feathers are noticeably shorter than the second and third feathers. The presence of a weakly curved claw on the back toe is characteristic.


Representatives of the genus owe their name to the peculiarities of tail movements. The characteristics of the external description depend on the main species characteristics of the wagtail:

  • Piebald wagtail - a bird with a body length of 19.0-20.5 cm, with a wing length of 8.4-10.2 cm and a tail length - no more than 8.3-9.3 cm.The upper body is predominantly black, and the throat and chin are white,
  • White wagtail - a bird with an elongated tail and a body length of 16-19 cm. Gray color predominates on the upper part of the body, and white feathers on the lower part. The throat and cap are black,
  • Mountain wagtail - the owner of a medium-sized body and a long tail. The bird's appearance is similar to the description of the yellow wagtail, and the main difference is the presence of white "sides", clearly contrasting with the bright yellow chest and undertail.
  • Yellow-headed wagtail - a slender appearance bird with a maximum body length of no more than 15-17 cm with a wingspan of 24-28 cm. In all its color, in general, it resembles a yellow wagtail.

The smallest representatives of the genus are Yellow Wagtails, or Pliski, whose body length is no more than 15-16 cm and weighs about 16-17 g.

Character and lifestyle

Each of the adults has its own territory, within which it hunts for prey. If there is no food within the site, then the bird goes in search of a new place, and having appeared there, it notifies its arrival with a loud cry. If the owner of the territory does not respond to this cry, then the bird starts hunting.

Aggressiveness is completely unusual for wagtails by nature, but when protecting the borders of its territory, such a bird is quite capable of attacking even its own reflection, which often becomes the cause of the bird's death. Representatives of the genus settle in small flocks in terms of the number of individuals, and when a predator appears on the territory of a predator, all birds fearlessly rush at it to protect the borders of their territory.

It is interesting! The bird is notified of the timing of its flight to the south by hormones produced by the pituitary gland of the bird, and the length of the daylight hours triggers the mechanism of the “migratory behavior of the bird”.

Representatives of the genus arrive with the onset of early spring together with numerous lapwings. During this period, a sufficient number of mosquitoes still do not appear, and other insects are practically invisible, therefore wagtails try to stay close to rivers, where water appears on the coastal areas and broken pieces of ice. It is in such places that various aquatic animals "dry up".

How many wagtails live

The average life expectancy of representatives of the genus in nature established by observations is about ten years, but with proper maintenance in captivity, such birds often live a couple of years more.

Sexual dimorphism

A markedly pronounced dimorphism is noted immediately in some species... For example, males of the species Black-headed Wagtail during the mating season have a velvet-black top of the head, bridle and top of the neck, and sometimes the front of the back. Young bird after molting in autumn is similar in appearance to females. The coloration of males of the mountain wagtail during the breeding season is represented mainly by gray tones on the upper part of the whole body, and has a yellow color on the lower part, and the neck is very contrasting, black.

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Wagtail species

Known species of representatives of the genus Wagtail:

  • M. feldegg, or Black-headed Wagtail,
  • M. aguimp Dumont, or piebald wagtail,
  • M. alba Linnaeus, or White Wagtail,
  • M. capensis Linnaeus, or Cape Wagtail,
  • M. cinerea Tunstall, or Mountain Wagtail with subspecies M.c. cinerea Tunstall, M.c. melanope Pallas, M.c. robusta, M.c. patriciae Vaurie, M.c. schmitzi Tschusi and M.c. canariensis,
  • M. citreola Pallas, or Yellow-headed Wagtail with subspecies Motacilla citreola citreola and Motacilla citreola qassatrix,
  • M. clara Sharpe, or Long-tailed wagtail,
  • M. flava Linnaeus, or Yellow Wagtail with subspecies M.f. flava, M.f. flavissima, M.f. thunbergi, M.f. iberiae, M.f. cinereocapilla, M.f. pygmaea, M.f. feldegg, M.f. lutea, M.f. beema, M.f. melanogrisea, M.f. plexa, M.f. tschutschensis, M.f. angarensis, M.f. leucocephala, M.f. taivana, M.f. macronyx and M.f. simillima,
  • M. flaviventris Hartlaub, or Madagascar Wagtail,
  • M. grandis Sharpe, or Japanese wagtail,
  • M. lugens Gloger, or Kamchatka wagtail,
  • M. madaraspatensis J. F. Gmelin, or White-browed wagtail.

In total, there are about fifteen species of wagtails that live in Europe, Asia and Africa. In the CIS, there are five species - white, yellow-backed and yellow, as well as yellow-headed and mountain wagtails. For residents of the middle zone of our country, representatives of the species White Wagtail are more familiar.

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Population and status of the species

Most of the species do not belong to the category of endangered or vulnerable, and the population of some representatives of the genus is noticeably declining. On the territory of the Moscow region, the meadow species is quite widespread and common. According to their status, the representatives of the species belong to the third category - the vulnerable birds of Moscow.

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Habitat, habitats

On the territory of Europe, most of the species of wagtails is found, but the Yellow Wagtail is sometimes distinguished into a special genus (Budytes). The numerous black-headed wagtail is an inhabitant of wet meadows and lake shores overgrown with sparse reeds or high grass stands with sparse bushes. A resident bird The piebald wagtail often settles near human habitation, only in sub-Saharan African countries. The yellow wagtail, or pliska, inhabiting the vast territories of Asia and Europe, Alaska and Africa, is widespread in almost the entire Palaearctic belt.

White wagtails nest mainly in Europe and Asia, as well as in North Africa, but representatives of the species may well be found in Alaska as well. The mountain wagtail is a typical inhabitant of all of Eurasia, and a significant part of the population regularly hibernates only in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Birds of this species try to adhere to near-water biotopes, giving preference to the banks of streams and rivers, damp meadows and swamps.

It is interesting! It is believed that the homeland of wagtails is the territory of Mongolia and Eastern Siberia, and only much later such songbirds were able to settle throughout Europe and appeared in North Africa.

In summer, the yellow-headed wagtail nests on rather wet meadows in Siberia and in the tundra, but with the onset of winter, the bird migrates to the territory of South Asia. The Long-tailed Wagtail, or Mountain Wagtail, is characterized by a wide range in Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola and Botswana, Burundi and Cameroon. All representatives of the species inhabit the shores of forest stormy streams within the subtropics or tropical dry forest zones, and are also found in the humid subtropics or tropics of mountain forests.

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Curious facts

  1. Since 1960, these birds have been considered a living symbol of Latvia.
  2. They are migratory, except for those that live in Africa (South and East).
  3. When defending their own territory from an opponent, birds of this species show strong aggression. They can even attack their own reflection, seen in the glass. This often leads to injury and even death.
  4. Show excellent parenting qualities, taking care of their offspring. Therefore, cuckoos often throw their eggs into their nests.
  5. They settle in small groups and jointly defend their territory from predators.

The nimble white, like the yellow wagtail, has unique habits that are worth learning about. To more accurately imagine these birds, it is worth looking at photos of the bird, as well as various colorful illustrations in textbooks and reference books.

Wagtail diet

Absolutely all representatives belonging to the Wagtail family feed exclusively on insects, while birds are able to catch them even during flight. The birds feed very unusual, and the caught butterflies are first torn off their wings one by one, after which the prey is quickly eaten... Often for hunting, wagtails choose the shores of reservoirs, where larvae of small mollusks or caddisflies can become their prey.

The feeding of wagtails is mainly represented by small dipterans, including mosquitoes and flies, which are easily swallowed by birds. In addition, representatives of the genus quite willingly eat all kinds of bugs and caddis flies. Sometimes such medium-sized birds can afford to feast on small berries or plant seeds.

It is interesting! Small-sized birds are of great benefit - wagtails very willingly feed near grazing areas of domestic or wild ungulates and eat horseflies, as well as many other blood-sucking and annoying insects right from their backs.

Pliska's diet includes various small invertebrates such as spiders and bugs, stoneflies and coleoptera, flies and wasps, caterpillars and butterflies, mosquitoes and ants. Insectivorous birds usually search for their prey only on the ground, moving very quickly and easily among the grass.

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Natural enemies

The most common enemies of the wagtail are domestic and wild cats, weasels and martens, as well as crows and cuckoos, many birds of prey... When enemies appear, the wagtails do not fly away, but, on the contrary, begin to scream very loudly. Sometimes this behavior is quite enough to drive enemies away from the nest or flock.

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Reproduction and offspring

With the onset of spring, the female and male begin to actively collect small twigs, moss, roots and shoots, which are used by birds in the construction of a cone-shaped nest. The main condition for nesting of an adult wagtail is the presence of water nearby.

The female begins to lay eggs from the first decade of May, and in the clutch there are most often from four to seven eggs, of which the chicks hatch after about a couple of weeks, and the female quickly throws out the entire shell from the nest.

From May to July, the wagtail manages to make two clutches. Newborn chicks, as a rule, have gray, yellow or white-black plumage.

It is interesting! Wagtails nest a couple of times during the summer, using for these purposes the cracks in the walls, the rafter system under the bridges, soil depressions, hollows and the root space of vegetation, and the twisted nest is quite loose and is lined with hair or shreds of wool from the inside.

Both parents take care of feeding their chicks, who in turn go to catch insects. After a couple of weeks, the chicks are already fledging and quickly become on the wing. In late June and early July, together with their parents, the grown chicks begin to learn to fly, and with the onset of autumn, bird flocks rush to the south.

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What do they eat

All birds, regardless of their species, use ordinary insects as food - butterflies, beetles, spiders, etc. They can catch their prey both by running on the ground and flying in the air!

The bird got its interesting name for its peculiar habit of shaking its tail during rapid movement on the ground.

Usually, researchers are concerned not only with what this bird eats. Of interest is also the unusual manner of eating caught prey.

The wagtail alternately tears off the limbs of the insect and only then starts eating. Not only the yellow-headed individual does this. Similar behavior is typical for representatives of other species.

Due to its diet, the yellow wagtail benefits many animals, especially cattle. Living in grazing areas, it eats a large number of horseflies and midges, which usually harm animals.


The titmouse is a rather beautiful bird, it can be found not only in Russia, but also in almost all of Europe and Central Asia.

The back of the titmouse is yellowish-green, the ventral side is yellow with a wide black stripe along the chest and belly (the Central Asian tits are slightly different in appearance, their plumage is more bluish-gray). In titmakers living in Russia, the upper side of the head, the sides of the neck, the throat and the adjacent part of the cadaver are shiny black, the sides of the head are white. The wing is grayish-blue with a light transverse stripe. The tail is blackish with a bluish bloom.

Tits in the spring often hunt dwarf bats (small bats), which, after hibernation, do not think well and are inactive. The titmice kill them with their beak in the head, and eat the entrails with a chomp.

Fact # 2: Tits are tolerant parents.

Moreover, the responsibilities for raising and feeding the chicks are divided equally. Nature made sure that these birds with yellow breasts quickly raised their broods on the wing.

Fact # 3: Tit is involved in the war in Ukraine.

On the air of the Russian TV channel, a fake flashed that in Ukraine, in natural history lessons, students are forced to feed tits because of yellow breasts, and to kill bullfinches.

Fact # 4: Tit is a thief!

The titmouse does not store supplies during the winter, but cunningly finds these supplies from others. Therefore, birds can often be seen near holes in the bark and roots.

Fact # 5: Tits are the most curious and fearless birds.

After forty. Indeed, titmouses are even capable of attacking humans when it comes to protecting chicks. Well, many have tried to feed the tit from the hand.

These yellow birds are quite large for their family, are about 8-13 cm long and weigh about 20 grams.

Tits like to live in deciduous forests, in dense thickets on the banks of rivers and reservoirs, in groves, parks and gardens.

The titmouse is considered a sedentary bird, and only partially it roams.As a rule, this occurs in late November, early December. And the native land returns in February, early March.

Tits feed on insects in the warm season, and in winter, on tree buds and seeds.

Building a nest

These birds arrive at nesting sites in February-May, after snow melts and green grass appears (depending on latitude). In the middle zone of our country, yellow wagtails usually appear in the second half of April, and in the Siberian region - in the first half of May. Birds make nests in a swampy area with a rich shrub and grassy cover - in a small depression on the ground, in dense grass, under a bush or near a hummock.

Before starting construction, the female carefully chooses a place for a nest for one or two days, inspecting every patch of vegetation in the area. The nest itself is a flat cup with a depth of 30 to 45 millimeters and a diameter of 80-110 millimeters. Various parts of meadow vegetation are used as building materials. At the bottom of the nest, horse hair or wool is covered in bunches. A few green leaves of cereal plants or feathers can often be found there.


The yellow wagtail is common in the Palaearctic belt: in most of Eurasia (except for the Far North), in North Africa, Southeast Asia, North America, and in western Alaska. On the territory of Russia, it lives almost everywhere, with the exception of the Caucasus, tundra and the southern part of Sakhalin.

Such a bird - the yellow wagtail - is a migratory bird, found in nesting areas from April to September or early October.In some southern areas of the range, it leads a sedentary life. Winters in South Asia, Africa, the islands of the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines.

During the nesting period, it occurs in swampy or wet meadows, in low-lying areas of the forest-steppe and steppe zones, in river valleys, grassy bogs with shrubs.

In the continuous taiga, the yellow wagtail rarely settles; it nests along the river banks, and the density of nesting sites can vary significantly. In some places, under similar conditions, they may not exist at all, while in others dense settlements are formed, in which pairs coexist at a distance of several tens or hundreds of meters from each other.

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.

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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.

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.

In the bird's diet, insects occupy the main place. Moreover, on especially difficult days, when there are fewer insects, the wagtail can zealously guard its territory and prevent competitors from hunting it.

If there are no problems with insects, then the bird can show kindness and allow the intruder to hunt together, while it must necessarily go or fly first.

White wagtail eggs

Due to the lack of insects, wagtails sometimes have to change their place of residence. Sometimes they can eat seeds or plants instead of insects, which happens infrequently. The wagtail returns to its native habitats approximately in March-April. From this period, their mating season begins.


Another yellow-breasted bird is oatmeal. In Russia, very few people know, since it lives only on Lake Baikal, and in some regions of Siberia. Common oatmeal has not only a yellow breast, but also a head. Aee subspecies - yellow-throated oatmeal, which once lived in Primorye, also has a punk-like chill.

Oatmeal not only has an interesting look, it also sings, almost like a nightingale. The number of trills of this bird can be up to 300 species per… hour. That is, oatmeal is a non-trivial composer, and in terms of musical "thinking" overtakes all known birds.

Oatmeal feeds mainly on plant foods - it keeps a "strict post" even in summer, without paying any attention to insects. Mainly eats plantain seeds, tree buds, wheat and oats. The rules of "fasting" are violated only during the breeding season, when the female needs improved nutrition.

Unlike the titmouse, the bunting lives in the wild, so its life expectancy is about 3 years. But in captivity, individual specimens lived up to 13 years (tits up to 15).

Each bird with a yellow breast attracts attention with its beauty, for Russia this is a completely atypical color, so many people are interested in these species. To see a tit is a great happiness, and to watch a booze is doubly happiness.