Grey Wagtail

A relatively small-bodied bird but with a very long-tail, which overall means its length is usually about 18cm. It has slate-grey upperparts and a greeny-yelllow rump (area at the base of the tail) and yellow under the tail. Depending on the time of year and age, adults can also have a lemon yellow breast, making it a striking bird. The long, white-sided tail is ‘wagged’ up and down almost constantly when the bird is not in flight. Often frequents waterside areas such as rivers, streams and ponds.

Scientific name

Motacilla cinerea

Did you know..

The Grey wagtail has the longest tail of the three British wagtail species; although experts are not entirely sure of the reason wagtails ‘wag’, it is thought that it helps them to catch their insect prey, by flushing them out of hiding places.

Similar species

The grey wagtail can be initially confused with the other two wagtails which breed in Britain; the pied wagtail and the yellow wagtail, but on closer inspection is really quite different. The pied wagtail is black and white all over and has no yellow on it at all. The yellow wagtail is much more boldly yellow with yellowy-green upperparts. The very long-tail accompanied by a slate-grey back and yellow rump can be used to accurately identify the grey wagtail.

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