Kenya Birds

Yellow Wagtail


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Yellow Wagtail

Photograph(s) Copyright ŠP&H HARRIS

Motacilla flava

Other Names

    French Bergeronnette printaničre, Bergeron   German Schafstelze   Spanish Lavandera Boyera   Swedish Gulärla   Dutch Gele Kwikstaart   Italian Cutrettola

World: Widespread across the Palearctic wintering in the southern Mediterranean, Africa and Australasia.

Kenya: A common migrant across most of the country and through most habitats.

This is a very complex species with a large number of races. There is doubt and debate over the status of several of the races with some authorities believing they are separate species. At least 6 races are known in Kenya, the bird pictured above shows the typical broad, yellow supercilliary stripe of the non-breeding M. f. lutea. Yellow Wagtails are active, gregarious birds which form large overnight roosts in trees, swamps and tall grass. By day they forage actively along shorelines, in grass, by the roadside and in gardens. Their diet consists primarily of small invertebrates which they pick from the ground of water surface while walking. They may also pick at food while running and they make short fights to take prey from the air or they may even fly over water taking insects from the surface. They are attracted to large domestic grazing animals, taking the insects that are stirred up when cattle and sheep feed. They may even pick parasitic blood-suckers from the animals backs.

Yellow Wagtails can be confused with another Palearctic migrant, the Grey Wagtail which also shows a varying amount of yellow. However the Grey Wagtail has a longer tail, black bib and white malar stripe.

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