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The Ultimate Guide to the Pied Wagtail

What is the Pied Wagtail and what do they look like?

Pied Wagtails, or scientifically called Motacilla alba, can be identified by their familiar white and grey patches on their tummies, face and on the bars of the wings, as well as the black colour along its back, neck, bars of the wings and covers the tail.

The most distinctive feature is the tail, as its named after it, it never stops waging! They are small little birds, usually a length of approximately 18 cm and a wingspan of 25-30 c, and weigh between 17-25g. Average lifespan 2 years. When they’re not standing and frantically wagging its tail up and down it can be spotted dashing about across lawns or car parks in search for food. Luckily they remain all year long until migrating season.

Taken by Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

What do Pied Wagtails eat?

They eat insects, but feed on seeds for nutrition and fat but during winter they will eat wasted litter. They are insectivores, feeding upon both ground and flying invertebrates. Frequently seen on top of rooftops and pavements, they have been known to seek for effortless pickings, such as insects. During the autumn and winter months, when insects are scarce, they search elsewhere for food such as in gardens to feed on seeds and bread.

What should I feed Pied Wagtails?

A good mixture of seed mix should not only attract pied wagtails but also meet their full diet requirements especially in the winter months.

Buy Pied Wagtail Food

Where does the Pied Wagtail live?

They can be found across the UK, abandoning some of the highland and northern areas of Scotland in winter. They are commonly found near water, and can be found in most habitats, even town centers. Body warmth from congregating themselves on rooftops keeps the pied wagtails alive during the cold winter nights.

They are practically, but not quite fully, an exclusively British bird. Pied wagtails don’t nest in the Channel Islands, but recently white wagtails started gaining popularity there. The pied/white wagtails are the most widespread breeding birds in Europe, breeding almost everywhere from Iceland and arctic Norway south to Andalucía and Sicily.

Where do Pied Wagtails nest?

You might find a nest in a tree hollow or a log pile, however they do fancy to nest in holes, they use grass, sticks, moss and mud to construct they’re cup shaped nest. They will make use of open-fronted nest boxes. Their eggs can be identified by their dark grey spots and pale grey colour, smooth and glossy, and are about 20 mm by 15 mm. The male and female take turns nurturing the eggs, and both adults feed the chicks. Each pair of wagtails will typically try and nest two or three times throughout the summer. Various birds additionally nest on the adjoining coasts of France and Holland. They tend to prefer old abandoned human artifacts such as machinery, cars, greenhouses, sheds, etc.…

Do Pied Wagtails migrate?

They typically stay in the UK. Those that live in the northern parts of the UK often migrate south of the UK in the winter, but they can go as far as North of Africa to avoid the cold months.

They usually flock together. They need each other’s help more than ever, during the migration season.

How does a Pied Wagtail call sound like?

Click here to listen to the song


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