The Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava, is a small passerine in the wagtail
Motacillidae, which also includes the pipits and longclaws.
This species breeds in much of temperate Europe and Asia and has a
foothold in North America in Alaska. It is resident in the milder parts
of its range, such as western Europe, but northern and eastern
populations migrate to Africa and south Asia.
Vagrant individuals occur around the winter quarters at migration
time. For example, on Palau in Micronesia migrant flocks of this species
– apparently of the Bering Sea Yellow Wagtail, and including many adult
males – are regularly seen, while further north on the Marianas, only
the occasional stray individual – usually females or immatures as it
seems – is encountered.
It is a slender 15-16 cm long bird, with the characteristic long,
constantly wagging tail of its genus. It is the shortest tailed of the
European wagtails. The breeding adult male is basically olive above and
yellow below. In other plumages, the yellow may be diluted by white. The
heads of breeding males come in a variety of colours and patterns
depending on subspecies.
The call is a characteristic high-pitched jeet.
This insectivorous bird inhabits open country near water, such as wet
meadows. It nests in tussocks, laying 4-8 speckled eggs.