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Pied Wagtail


This is an insectivorous bird of open country, often near habitation and water. It prefers bare areas for feeding, where it can see and pursue its prey. In urban areas it has adapted to foraging on paved areas such as car parks.

It nests in crevices in stone walls under roof tiles, under stones etc. Its diet is Small invertebrates from the ground or fly-catching. 

The Pied Wagtail is easily spotted, as its name suggests, by its constantly wagging black and white tail. The male can sometimes appear to be pure black, and the female usually has a dark grey back. Usually to be seen in small groups, but they can sometimes gather in large flocks, and will roost commonly in reeds and orchards.

Quick Facts

Age at First Breeding
1 year

First clutches laid
Mid May

14 days

Clutch Size
5-6 eggs

13 days

Egg Weight
2.3 g

First Record
8th Century

Egg Size
20x15 mm

Open country, often near water


28 cm

18 cm

Status in UK
Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage Visitor

Conservation Status UK

Number in Britain

Number of broods

Typical Lifespan
2 years

Maximum Recorded Age
11 years, 3 months

  • Some of the biggest wagtail roosts may hold as many as 4,000 birds.
  • In Britain the Pied Wagtail are on the increase.
  • Pairs will try to produce two or three broods during the summer.
  • Their diet is almost entirely made up of insects, though they are partial to crumbs.
  • The male song is not very interesting, just plain and straight forward chirping notes.
  • They have many country names such as Penny Wagtail, Willy Wagtail and Water Wagtail.
  • The Wagtail is just as happy breeding in high mountain valleys to city centres. It shows how they are very adaptable.
  • Wagtails like to nest in farmyards, holes in walls even under roof tiles, in fact they are happy to nest close to man.
  • The Pied Wagtail is almost exclusively a British bird, although some are known to nest on the French and Dutch coast.

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