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Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli) | by Brian Carruthers-Dublin-Eire
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Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli)

Motacilla alba yarrellii


Glasóg shráide


Passeriformes | [family] Motacillidae | [latin] Motacilla alba yarrellii | [UK] Pied Wagtail | [FR] Bergeronnette de Yarrell | [DE] Trauer-Bachstelze | [ES] Lavandera de Yarrell | [IT] Ballerina nera | [NL] Rouwkwikstaart


spanwidth min.: 25 cm

spanwidth max.: 30 cm

size min.: 16 cm

size max.: 19 cm


incubation min.: 11 days

incubation max.: 16 days

fledging min.: 11 days

fledging max.: 16 days

broods 2

eggs min.: 4

eggs max.: 7


Status: A common resident throughout Ireland..


Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population is considered to be Secure.




Similar species: Grey Wagtail


Call: A sharp “chiss-wick” is the most frequently heard call. When alarmed, may give a fine “zeet”. The song consists of an excited mixture of the call and other twittering notes, which may also be given when pursuing birds of prey from its territory.


Diet: Pied Wagtails feed mainly on insects caught on the ground or in flight.


Breeding: Breeds in a wide variety of habitats, inclubing urban areas but largely absent from bogs and upland areas.


Wintering: Generally sedentary, with only local movenments. However some birds migrate south to winter in southern France and Iberia.


Where to see: Common throughout Ireland.



Physical characteristics


The pied wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) is a subspecies that occurs in Britain. It differs from subspecies alba, which occurs on the continent and is known as the white wagtail, in that during the breeding season, males develop black upperparts and females have sooty dark grey upperparts.




This bird tends to prefer habitats close to water, such as river banks and lake edges. However it can also be seen in farmland, moorland, parks and gardens, as well as around sewage farms, reservoirs and in towns.


Other details


De Rouwkwikstaart is een ondersoort van de witte Kwikstaart. Deze vooral op de britse eilanden voorkomende kwikstaart zien we nogal in de omgeving van boerderijen.




Feeds on insects; forages on the ground, usually in open areas




This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of >10,000,000 km2. The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as "common" in at least parts of its range (Brazil 1991). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]




In summer, pied wagtails defend breeding territories; the nest is built beneath roof tiles, in walls, amongst ivy, or beneath stones and five or six eggs are produced. These are incubated for 11-16 days and the young will have fledged by 16 days of age.




Varies from wholly migratory to more or less resident. Most northern populations in west Palearctic migrate south to Mediterranean area, tropics and subtropics of Africa; extralimital eastern populations to peninsular India and south-east Asia. Autumn passage occurs across entire length of Mediterranean. Passage of Icelandic birds (nominate alba) through Britain and Ireland occurs mostly August-October. In southern Finland, passage begins late August and peaks mid-September with only stragglers in October. In Switzerland, autumn departure generally begins c. 10 September, peaks mid-October, but continues regularly well into December. Return movement in spring is early. Arrival of nominate alba over wide areas of central Europe may be as early as February but mainly March-April, while arrival in southern Scandinavia is late March and in northern Scandinavia around mid-April. On Fair Isle, passage may start mid-March, but is usually early April to early May.


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Taken on August 30, 2015