Barn Owl
Blackbird
Blackcap
Black-headed Gull
Black Redstart
Blue Tit
Brambling
Bullfinch
Buzzard
Carrion Crow
Chaffinch
Chiffchaff
Coal Tit
Collared Dove
Common Gull
Coot
Crested Tit
Crossbill
Cuckoo
Dunnock
Feral Pigeon
Fieldfare
Garden Warbler
Goldcrest
Goldfinch
Goshawk
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Tit
Greenfinch
Green Woodpecker
Grey Heron
Grey Partridge
Grey Wagtail
Hawfinch
Herring Gull
Hoopoe
House Martin
House Sparrow
Jackdaw
Jay
Kestrel
Kingfisher
Lapwing
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Whitethroat
Linnet
Little Owl
Long-eared Owl
Long-tailed Tit
Magpie
Mallard
Marsh Tit
Meadow Pipit
Mistle Thrush
Moorhen
Nightingale
Nuthatch
Peregrine
Pheasant
Pied Flycatcher
Pied Wagtail
Quail
Raven
Red Kite
Red-legged Partridge
Redpoll
Redstart
Redwing
Reed Bunting
Ring-necked Parakeet
Robin
Rook
Sand Martin
Serin
Short-eared Owl
Siskin
Skylark
Song Thrush
Sparrowhawk
Spotted Flycatcher
Starling
Stock Dove
Stonechat
Swallow
Swift
Tawny Owl
Treecreeper
Tree Sparrow
Turtle Dove
Waxwing
Whinchat
Whitethroat
Willow Tit
Willow Warbler
Wood Pigeon
Wren
Yellow Wagtail
Yellowhammer

British Garden Birds Logo Home page. Bird identification guide. Site map. Discussion board. Articles on birds and birdwatching. Having problems? Search this website. Photograph album. Guestbook for your comments. News about the birds in my garden. Contact us. Test your identification skills. About this website. Field trip reports. Links to other websites. Awards won by this website. British Garden Birds Navigation Map

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail Male Grey Wagtail Male
Small blue-grey and yellow bird with a wagging long tail.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Motacilla cinerea
Length: 18-20 cm  (7-8")
Wing Span: 25-27 cm  (10-11")
Weight: 15-23 g  (½-¾ oz) Female Grey Wagtail Female
Like the male, but duller.
Breeding Pairs: 34 000
Present: All Year
Status: Amber

Description

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.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Song Call
  Quicktime mp3 Quicktime mp3

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.

Feeding

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.

Nesting

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 Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April 1-2 3-7 11-14 11-13

Movements

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.

Conservation

The amber alert exists because of a serious decline in the 1970s and 80s, but the population is slowly increasing.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

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.


Last revision: 21 Feb 2015
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2017.
Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites