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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jouko Lehmuskallio, Simo Mikkonen, M., W. & F. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland), Pohjolan linnut värikuvin. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

White Wagtail

Motacilla alba

  • Name also: Pied Wagtail (M. a. yarrellii)
  • Family: Pipits and wagtails – Motacillidae
  • Appearance: Slender, graceful looking birds with long black tail edged with white. Plumage black, white and grey. Dark markings visible on chest of birds in all plumages.
  • Size: Length 16.5–19 cm, weight 18–23 g.
  • Nest: May nest in many different kinds of sites. Nest made of straw and moss, lined with wool and hair.
  • Breeding: 2–7 eggs laid in May, incubated by both parents for 10–15 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 11–16 days. Breeds from May to early August.
  • Distribution: Common breeder throughout Finland. Breeding population estimated at 400,000–600,000 pairs.
  • Migration: By day. Leaves Finland August–October, returning April–May after wintering in the Middle East or NE Africa.
  • Diet: Invertebrates.
  • Calls: A chattering “tsilip”, song rapid and chirpy.

White Wagtails have white, black and grey markings in all plumages. The sexes can be distinguished by the colouring on their heads: males have black markings on the back of the head and neck, on the throat and on the belly. On females these markings are dark or medium grey. White Wagtails’ underparts are otherwise white, and their backs are grey. Their tails are black with fairly extensive white margins. Their wings are dark with a broad white stripe. Juveniles and birds in winter plumage have grey heads. Dark markings are visible on the chests of birds in all plumages. White Wagtails have black beaks, black legs, and dark brown irises. They are familiar, busy garden birds, often fearless when approached.

In archipelago regions White Wagtails have learnt to approach people for safety when birds of prey appear. As their name suggests, Wagtails constantly wag their long tails up and down.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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