British Bird of the Month: Pied Wagtail

Member of Motacillidae (Pipit and Wagtail) family

Pied Wagtail can be found throughout the UK, except for north-west Scotland. They are very closely related to the White Wagtail (M. a. alba) which generally replace them on mainland Europe.

A striking, long-tailed and rather sprightly black and white bird, the Pied Wagtail is an occasional garden visitor. They usually stand and frantically wag their tail up and will dash about in search of food.

The differences in the plumage of Pied wagtails is quite complicated. In the breeding season the males are very black and white, with the females greyer. Young birds can look brownish grey even with a hint of yellow

What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them

Pied Wagtails feed predominantly on insects that it finds while searching lawns, fields and verges. The insects are typically flies and caterpillars.

In areas where Pied Wagtails are common, you can often hear them calling as they fly over favourite hunting grounds to check if there is already a Pied Wagtail feeding there. They have a distinctive undulating flight.

They adapted to forage on paved areas such as car parks. They enjoy feeding on edges of streams and small fish fry have been recorded in the diet. If you have a lawn with a path and ground feeder then you are more likely to attract Pied Wagtails.

 Where They Live & How You Can Help Them

Pied Wagtails build their nest in holes in walls, buildings, or old nests of larger birds. Grass and mosses are used to construct the small cup-shaped nest. They will use open-fronted nest boxes similar to those used by robins. In the winter they will roost in large flocks of several thousand, often in urban areas.

The 4-6 eggs are laid in 1-2 clutches and take about 13 days to incubate.

And Finally……..

Just why does a Pied Wagtail wag its tail? The near-constant tail wagging is a trait that has given the species, and the family, its common name. It has been suggested that it may flush prey, or signal submissiveness to other wagtails or even it is a signal of vigilance to potential predators.


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