White Wagtail is an extremely common bird throughout Asia and Europe, but in
North America, they are only typically found in northwest Alaska, where
limited breeding occurs along the coast. They have also been sighted
as vagrants in many parts of North America, most often along the west coast
of the United States, but also with some eastern U.S. records, and a handful
of records in the interior of the U.S. The "Black-backed Wagtail",
also found on rare occasions in North America, was once considered a
separate species, but is now considered a subspecies of the White Wagtail.
The Black-backed Wagtail is very similar in appearance, but instead of the
gray back pictured in the bird on the right, their back is black.
Habitat: Breeding birds in Alaska are found around
rocky cliffs and beaches, or sometimes on gravel bars on rivers. In
their range in Eurasia, they can be found in a very wide variety of open and
Diet: Feeds on insects and spiders, but will also
occasionally take other invertebrates such as worms, and will also sometimes
feed on seeds, particularly when invertebrates are not available.
Behavior: Forages by walking along the ground in
search of invertebrates. They may also sometimes fly from the ground
to capture flying insects in mid-air. As with other Wagtail species, White
Wagtails frequently wag their tails as they move about.
Nesting: The nest of a White Wagtail is a cup of
grasses, sticks, moss, and other material, usually built in a protected area
such as a rocky crevice. They have also adapted well to a human
presence, and even in sparsely populated western Alaska, they may nest in a
crevice in a building. They female usually lays between 5 to 7 eggs,
and both parents help to incubate them. After the eggs hatch, both
parents help to feed them. The young leave the nest after about 2
weeks, but typically remain in the care of the parents for another week or
Song: The song of a White Wagtail is a series of
short, clear phrases, with each phrase consisting of two or three syllables.
Migration: Strongly migratory. Birds that
breed in Alaska winter in southeast Asia. In their Eurasian range,
some birds are permanent residents in more temperate zones. Birds in
less temperate areas are migratory, with European birds mostly wintering in
southern Europe near the Mediterranean, or in north Africa. Asian
birds winter in the Middle East, India, and southeast Asia.
Black-backed Wagtail. There are number of other black-and-white
Wagtail species found in Eurasia that are somewhat similar.
Photo Information: Photo by "Koshy
Koshy" - Photo taken on February 5th, 2012 at Garhi Bazidpur, Haryana,
India - Photo licensed under
Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License