Grey wagtails are energetic little birds and always on the move; frantically bobbing, ducking and dashing about. Despite their rather dull name grey wagtails are actually quite colourful with a vivid lemon underneath that contrasts against the slate grey feathers above. They are common birds of fast-flowing mountain rivers and streams right across the UK and throughout much of Europe, Asia and north Africa.
To avoid the winter cold, to which they are very susceptible, grey wagtails will move into more lowland areas such as farmland and even towns and cities. They are a very versatile predator, catching small dragonflies on the wing, a variety of insects off the ground, and even fishing tadpoles out of shallow water.
Scientific name: Motacilla cinerea
The following habitats are found across the Grey wagtail distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Year assessed: 2009
Classified by: IUCN 3.1
The Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) is a small member of the wagtail family, Motacillidae. 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.
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