Gray wagtail

Motacilla cinerea

TAXONOMY

Motacilla cinerea Tunstall, 1771, Yorkshire, England. Six subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Bergeronnette des ruisseaux; German: Gebirgsstelze; Spanish: Lavandera Cascadeña.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

7.1-7.5 in (18-19 cm); 0.5-0.8 oz (14-22 g). Gray upperparts; yellow underparts. Tail longer, more black-and-white than the yellow wagtail. In summer males develop a bold face pattern with white stripes and a black bib.

DISTRIBUTION

M. c. patriciae: Azores; M. c. schmitzi: Madeira; M. c. canariensis: Canary Islands; M. c. cinerea: Northwest Africa and Europe east

to Iran, winters in western Europe, Middle East and Africa south to Malawi; M. c. melanope: Ural mountains and Afghanistan east to Amur R.; M. c. robusta: east Asia from Kamchatka and Okhotsk Sea to northeast China and Japan; central and eastern Asian birds winter in Pakistan east to southeast China, and southeast Asia to New Guinea.

HABITAT

Fast-running, rocky upland streams and rivers; also canals, and lakeshores with stones, trees and dense herbage; in winter also in lowlands at waterbodies, estuaries and coasts near water.

BEHAVIOR

Territorial when breeding; some defend winter feeding territories; gregarious only at winter roosts.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Takes mainly aquatic insects; also tadpoles and small fish; forages on ground or in water; also flycatches.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous; breeds March through May. Cup nest placed on cliff ledge, in crevice, bank or tree roots; both sexes build. Three to seven eggs; incubation 11-14 days, by both sexes; fledging 11-17 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Uncommon to common and widespread. Some populations decreasing, but no significant threats noted.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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