Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Day 66 - Whizzing Wagtails

Hi all,

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba) near our village green
Thanks for all the comments on my 12 days of nature. It was a really fun theme to do and I'm so glad so many of you enjoyed it. I'll be thinking of more themes so look out for these soon.

So back to my nature hunts. I saw these little guys twice over the last weekend in two quite different locations. The first picture is from my village on the cobbles next to a house on the village green. The others are from a beach in the north east where I did my 2 minute beach clean - more on this soon too.

Its pretty obvious from the title and the pictures that today I'm looking at the Pied Wagtail.
Pied Wagtail on a beach 
Here's a few things I found out from my research:

  • They are widespread in the UK, except for North Western Scotland during the winter.
  • They are almost unique to us, as they are known in other countries as the White Wagtail. (Wikipedia says that the Pied Wagtail is a subspecies of the White Wagtail - is that right? Please comment if you know.)
  • The name comes from their colours (pied meaning black and white or two coloured) and wagtail, well, if you see one its obvious - it cant keep its tail still much of the time :-)
  • It is a green status bird and in the summer it's estimated there are 470,00 breeding pairs.
  • Females tend to be greyer than males but their plumage changes during the year making it a bit complicated.
  • The oldest known wagtail was 11 years and 3 months old but a typical lifespan is just 2 years!
  • They mostly have two broods a year of 5-6 eggs.
  • Their diet is insects and they have special little pointy beaks ideally suited to pecking up little bugs.
  • At night they gather together to roost in large numbers. Roost sites can be quite different from reed beds through to city centres in places like supermarkets, petrol stations and apparently even Buckingham Palace hosts a wagtail roost.
  • It has a lot of other local or country names such as Willy Wagtail and in Norfolk its called either Polly Dishwasher or Nanny Dishwasher.
They have quite a nice call and you can see one a bit better in this short video I found on youtube.

Well, that's more than I knew about them yesterday and there are loads more facts if you want at these sites:

Hope you enjoyed.


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