Wagtails & Pipits (Motacillidae)


There are 5 genera :- Anthus, Timetothylacus, Motacilla, Dendroanthus & Macronyx

 Pipit (Genus Anthus)

The genus is widespread, occurring across most of the world, except the driest deserts, rainforests and the mainland of Antarctica. They are slender, often drab, ground-feeding insectivores of open country. Like their relatives in the family, the pipits are monogamous and territorial. Pipits are ground nesters, laying up to six speckled eggs.

Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis)  Resident
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) Copyright Peter Drury

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Copyright Peter Drury

It is migratory over most of its range, wintering in southern Europe, north Africa and southwestern Asia, but is resident in Ireland, Great Britain, and neighbouring areas of western Europe. However, even here, many birds move to the coast or lowlands in winter and thus the local population is boosted.
The food is primarily insects and other invertebrates, mostly small items less than 5 mm long. It also eats the seeds of grasses, sedges, rushes and heather, and crowberry berries, mainly in winter.

Where these can be seen:Mainly on the coastline, picking through exposed seaweed for small invertebrates.

 Wagtail (Genus Motacilla)

They are small birds with long tails which they wag frequently. Motacilla, the root of the family and genus name, means moving tail. Wagtails are slender, often colourful, ground-feeding insectivores of open country in the Old World. They are ground nesters, laying up to six speckled eggs at a time.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii ) Resident
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) Copyright Peter Drury

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Copyright Peter Drury

This is a sub species of the White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) localised to the UK.
The white wagtail is an insectivorous bird of open country, often near habitation and water. It prefers bare areas for feeding, where it can see and pursue its prey. In urban areas it has adapted to foraging on paved areas such as car parks. It nests in crevices in stone walls and similar natural and man-made structures.

Where these can be seen: On open parts of pathways, in fields and near standing water water

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) Copyright Peter Drury

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Copyright Peter Drury

The species looks similar to the yellow wagtail but has the yellow on its underside restricted to the throat and vent. Breeding males have a black throat. The species is widely distributed, with several populations breeding in Europe and Asia and migrating to tropical regions in Asia and Africa. They are usually seen on open marshy ground or meadows where they walk solitarily or in pairs along the ground, capturing insects that are disturbed. Like other wagtails, they frequently wag their tail and fly low with undulations and they have a sharp call that is often given in flight.
This slim wagtail has a narrow white supercilium and a broken eye ring. The upperparts are grey and the yellow vent contrasting with whitish underparts makes it distinctive. The breeding male has a black throat that is edged by whitish moustachial stripes. They forage singly or in pairs on meadows or on shallow water marshes. They also use rocks in water and will often perch on trees. They have a clear sharp call note and the song consists of trills.

Where these can be seen: Salt marsh area

 Pipit & Wagtail Gallery