Grey wagtail collecting food for nestlings at the edge of a stream

Grey wagtail

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

Rank: Species

Watch video clips from past programmes (1 clip)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.


The Grey wagtail can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Asia, Europe, Mediterranean, Russia, United Kingdom, Wales, Ynys-hir nature reserve. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


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.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Least Concern

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Year assessed: 2009

Classified by: IUCN 3.1