Pied Wagtail

Motacilla alba yarrellii



The tail moves up and down, up and down, almost constantly. The sexes are different and the plumage differs slightly depending on season. During summer, the male adult is mostly white underneath, black on top, on the rump and on the throat; he has a white face and white wing-bars. He has a dark bill and legs and white feathers on the outside of his tail. He is similar in winter, but his throat whitens. The female resembles the male but her back is greyer and she is not as black on the throat. Juvenile birds have greyish-brown upperparts, they're pale underneath with a black rump, and the faces may have a faint yellow tinge.


Usually tends towards areas in close proximity to water, but is otherwise quite flexible. Habitat includes agricultural land, moorland, and even urban settings.


Is bouncy in flight, and quite jolty when feeding; often runs and walks. Males are territorial in winter. Roosting is communal with roosts often numbering in the thousands, but feeding is usually done alone.


Diet includes flies, midges and also caterpillars; prey is usually found on the ground.


Female lays 5 or 6 eggs at the beginning of spring and both parents incubate for about 13 days. Both parents feed the young, which fledge after about 14 days, but continue to be fed for up to a week. Two broods are more likely in the south of the region, while northern birds are more likely to just have one.


Pied Wagtails of the region depart their upland territories during the winter. Some birds from northern Europe visit the region in spring and autumn. Approximately 470 000 pairs breed in the UK and more than 100 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

The Pied Wagtail is widely distributed and should not be a challenge to see in summer.


Has a piercing 'chisswit' call.
Back to Bird Index