Yellow Wagtail


The Yellow Wagtail formerly included the global world’s population of this elegant bird, divided into seventeen subspecies. But now, two main species, the Western Yellow Wagtail - M. flava (studied in this page) and the Eastern Yellow Wagtail - M. tschutschensis, replace the Yellow Wagtail with one in W Europe and one in E Europe. The Western Yellow Wagtail has 10-12 recognized subspecies. These races vary mainly in colour and head pattern of breeding males, whereas females and immatures are difficult to identify. The taxonomy of this species is very complex. Some races such as M.f. lutea and M.f. feldegg are sometimes treated as separate species by some authors. In addition, some races are known to hybridize, leading to extreme difficulties in identifying species. The male of nominate race in breeding plumage has blue-grey head including forehead, crown, hindneck and ear-coverts, the latter sometimes darker. We can see a narrow, white supercilium from bill base to side of nape, a blackish eye stripe and a short, white submoustachial stripe. The upper parts are greenish/olive-brown. On the upperwing, the flight feathers are blackish. Two pale wingbars are formed by the pale fringes of tertials, and pale fringes and tips of blackish wing-coverts. The tail is blackish-brown with olive fringes to feathers, but the outer rectrices are white.

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