Saturday, 1 August 2009

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)

OTHER NAMES: Pied Wagtail, Water Wagtail
Latin Etymology: Motacilla ("wagtail") alba ("white")
Adult White Wagtail (subspecies M. l. yarrelli - Pied Wagtailat Pitsford Reservoir, Northants - December 2014
Adult White Wagtail (subspecies M. a. lugens - Black-backed Wagtailat Akkeshi, Japan - December 2014

Featured Subspecies: Motacilla alba yarrellii & Motacilla alba lugens
Weight: 25g  /  Length: 16.5-21cm  /  Wingspan: 25-30cm
UK GREEN LIST / IUCN Red List: Least Concern

The White Wagtail is a species with a vast range, covering almost the entirity of Eurasia, with some presence in North Africa and a toe-hold in Alaska.  It is a highly variable species, with each each of the races having plumages in different combinations of black, white and grey, as seen in the two examples above, with some races being significantly paler than others.  It is quite possible that these may be split at some point into further species, but as of current taxonomy at least, the "Black-backed Wagtail" of North East Asia has been lumped back in to the wider species.  

Further Information:
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Motacillidae
Genus: Motacilla
Subspecies: M. a. alba, M. a. yarrellii, M. a. subpersonata, M. a. persica, M. a. dukhunensis, M. a. personata, M. a. baicalensis, M. a. ocularis, M. a. lugens

- Sighting Locations -
UNITED KINGDOM - Abundant breeding resident (470,000 pairs)

 - Seen in virtually every location including Rutland Water,  Rainham MarshesRegent's ParkPitsford ReservoirDitchford Gravel Pits, Eyebrook Reservoir and Geddington.
JAPAN - Japanese - ハクセキレイ / haku-sekirei ("white wagtail"*)
Abundant resident - one of the most common urban birds.
 - KYOTO 2013 TRIP: A single bird seen in Osaka 
 - TOKYO/HOKKAIDO 2014 TRIP: Seen in Central Tokyo and single individual along shore-front at Akkeshi 
SPAIN - Spanish - Lavandera blanca ("White Laundress")
A reasonably common resident,
 - MADRID 2016 TRIP: Seen nearEl Pardo

Further Notes: BirdForum Opus, IUCN Red ListRSPBWikipedia, Xeno-canto

* The Black-backed Wagtail has been split off from this species by some authorities, but other subspecies of White Wagtail are still found in Japan.  However, they still currently share the same name in Japanese to my knowledge.

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