[order] Passeriformes | [family] Motacillidae | [latin] Motacilla alba | [UK] White Wagtail | [FR] Bergeronnette grise | [DE] Bachstelze | [ES] Lavandera Blanca | [IT] Ballerina bianca | [NL] Witte Kwikstaart

Witte Kwikstaart determination

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Long-tailed, head and neck black and white, and largely white to largely black wing-coverts. Black-backed birds are possibly confusable with the White-browed Wagtails. Sexes are similar. Underparts white; female a little pale. In winter chin and throat white, blackish breast band, young pale, without black.

Readily perches on telegraph wires, roofs of buildings and, less commonly, in trees. Runs with jerky head movements, constantly wagging tail; flight undulating.

Motacilla alba is a widespread breeder across most of Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is extremely large (>13,000,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although there were declines in Sweden, Finland and Latvia during 1990-2000, populations were stable across the vast majority of its European range, and the species remained stable overall.

Feeds on insects; forages on the ground, usually in open areas

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of >10,000,000 km2. The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as "common" in at least parts of its range (Brazil 1991). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Five or six dark-speckled, pale gray eggs are laid in a nest made of grasses, rootlets, and leaves built near or on the ground in an earthen bank, rock crevice, or niche of an old building. Incubation ranges from 12 to 14 days and is carried out by both parents.

Varies from wholly migratory to more or less resident. Most northern populations in west Palearctic migrate south to Mediterranean area, tropics and subtropics of Africa; extralimital eastern populations to peninsular India and south-east Asia. Autumn passage occurs across entire length of Mediterranean. Passage of Icelandic birds (nominate alba) through Britain and Ireland occurs mostly August-October. In southern Finland, passage begins late August and peaks mid-September with only stragglers in October. In Switzerland, autumn departure generally begins c. 10 September, peaks mid-October, but continues regularly well into December. Return movement in spring is early. Arrival of nominate alba over wide areas of central Europe may be as early as February but mainly March-April, while arrival in southern Scandinavia is late March and in northern Scandinavia around mid-April. On Fair Isle, passage may start mid-March, but is usually early April to early May.

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