Pied wagtail perched on fence post


There is something very hypnotic about watching one of the 11 species of wagtail. These slender, energetic, and often colourful birds are constantly wagging their long tail; the trait from which they get their common name. The reason for this behaviour is not clearly understood, but could be for communicating with each other or to warn off potential predators.

Species familiar to us in the UK, such as the yellow, grey and pied wagtails, are also widespread throughout much of Europe, Asia and north Africa. Other species can have a more restricted range, for example, the endemic Madagascan wagtail, as its name suggests, can only be found on the African island of Madagascar.

Scientific name: Motacilla

Rank: Genus


The Wagtails can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Asia, Europe. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.

Explore this group


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Birds
  5. Perching birds
  6. Motacillidae
  7. Wagtails