Small blue-grey and yellow bird with a wagging long tail.
|Length: 18-20 cm (7-8")|
|Wing Span: 25-27 cm (10-11")|
|Weight: 15-23 g (½-¾ oz)||
Like the male, but duller.
|Breeding Pairs: 34 000|
|Present: All Year|
The Grey Wagtail has the longest tail of the wagtails and like the others its tail is wagged continually. The long tail improves its agility while flying in pursuit of insects.
The blue-grey upperparts contrast with black wings, bright yellow breast and belly and yellow-green rump. The adults have a prominent white supercilium (eyebrow), moustache and outer tail feathers. The legs are pink-brown and the bill is grey-black.
In the winter, the male's yellow breast becomes paler and the black throat less distinct. This winter plumage is very similar to the female's appearance all year round.
Juveniles are similar to the female but the lower bill and throat are pink-buff coloured and they lack the black throat.
The potentially confusing Yellow Wagtail does not have blue-grey upper parts and is a summer visitor only.
The Grey Wagtail's call is similar to the Pied Wagtails, but higher pitched and shorter, and sounds more like "chic".
The rarely heard song is a delightful, melodious trilling given either in flight or from a perch.
Their diet comprises insects, such as midges and ants, which they find alongside rivers, etc. They will also take water snails and tadpoles from shallow water.
Grey Wagtails usually nest near shallow, fast-flowing streams, waterfalls, mill-races, lakes, canals, etc. They build their nest in hollows or crevices out of twigs, grass, and moss.
The Grey Wagtail's eggs are smooth, glossy and creamy-coloured with grey-buff spots. The female incubates the eggs by herself. After the young hatch, they are fed by both parents.
|Breeding Starts||Number of Clutches||Number of Eggs||Incubation (days)||Fledge (days)|
The Grey Wagtail is not a migrant in the normal sense but those that breed in upland areas migrate to eastern lowland areas for the winter (this is called altitudinal migration). Consequently, they often turn up in cities and even gardens, but usually never too far from water.
Northern European birds, however, do migrate, along with some British birds, to southern Europe and North Africa.
The amber alert exists because of a serious decline in the 1970s and 80s, but the population is slowly increasing.
There are Grey Wagtails on the nearby River Sheaf where I am certain they have nested underneath one of the bridges in the past. I have seen them occasionally on the stream in the local woods, and in a neighbour's garden, but all expectations were exceeded when one was hopping around the lily pads in the garden pond in autumn 2003, and again in the autumn or winter of most years since.
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