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Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail by Paul HarrisGrey Wagtail by Paul Harris
Scientific name

Motacilla cinerea


Yorkshire is the boundary between grey wagtails that spend the winter in east and south-east, and the summer in the north! They move from lowland areas in winter to upland areas in summer. In summer they can be seen near fast-flowing rivers, but may be over farmland in winter, but never too far from water. They eat ants and midges that they find beside rivers, or snails and tadpoles they find in shallow water. They nest near the water in a hollow lined with moss and twigs.


Grey wagtails move their tails from left to right and have a bobbing flight. The males have a bright yellow breast, the females have this too but it is less yellow. Not to be confused with the yellow wagtail which is really yellow all over (and is a summer visitor only)!


The grey wagtail has been able to expand its range because of improving water quality in many of our rivers nationally in recent decades. A clutch will be between three and six eggs with incubation lasting about twelve days and fledging twelve days after that!


There is a continuing long-term decline in the breeding population, so in 2015 it was moved from the Amber list of conservation concern to the Red list. They have declined by around 30% in the last 20 years.