Wild life and nature of Samos, Ikaria & Fournoi

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White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)


A fairly small bird, around 18 cm long. In breeding plumage, the adult males have a black and white head. The forehead, cheeks, ear-coverts and head sides are white. The chin and throat are black, as is the rear crown, the nape and the hind neck. The upperparts are largely grey. The upper wing shows a greyish, black and white pattern, forming two white wing bars. The long tails are black and white. The tail is similar in length to the wings.The White Wagtail has a habit of an almost constant tail wagging, with gives it its name, and the reason towards this was suggested that it is a signal of vigilance to potential predators.The Wagtail is known to be hosted by the Common Cuckoo, though it typically deserts its nests if it has been parasitized, as they are too small to destroy or break the egg.


Rocky places, towns, rivers. In Alaska, very localized in summer. Seldom on open tundra, usually around low sea cliffs, coastal villages, shacks on beaches, sometimes on gravel flats of rivers well inland. In the Old World, it is found on almost any kind of open or semi-open terrain.


Terrestrial and aquatic insects and other small invertebrates form the major part of the diet. These range from beetles, dragonflies, small snails, spiders, worms, crustaceans, to maggots found in carcasses. Small fish fry has also been recorded in the diet.

Protection Status

This species is listed as LeastConcern on the IUCN Red List.

Interesting Facts

The White Wagtail is the national bird of Latvia and has featured on stamps of several counties from Europe to Asia.

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