British wildlife recordings

Motacilla alba : Pied Wagtail - Motacillidae

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  • Type

    sound

  • Duration

    00:00:44

  • Shelf mark

    W1CDR0001525 BD20

  • Subjects

    Birds

  • Recording date

    1976/10/24

  • Recording locations

    Loch Beag, Scotland: OS Grid Reference(395500,204500)

  • Recordist

    Williams, Aubrey John

  • Species

    Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba

  • Description

    Call and song of the pied wagtail recorded on Long Beach, Scotland. With its black and white plumage and constantly wagging tail, the pied wagtail must be one of the most appropriately named birds. It is actually the British race of the much paler and continental, white wagtail. This versatile little bird can utilise a wide range of habitats throughout the year, occupying farmland and moorland during the summer, and moving to suburban centres during winter. Pied wagtails specialise in feeding on insects such as flies and midges gleaned from the ground or shallow water, but are equally capable of catching insects on the wing. When feeding, they have a strange jerky walk and a comical running style. Their undulating flight is also accompanied by a distinctive 'chis-wick' call. Insect prey becomes more difficult to find in winter and explains why many pied wagtails in the north of Britain move to southern Britain or even continental Europe during these times of hardship. During winter, the pied wagtail also forms large communal roosts in urban areas, choosing anything from hospitals and supermarkets to commercial greenhouses to pass the night. These buildings are warmer than surrounding areas and afford some protection from predators. There are 300,000 pairs in Britain, and the population is thought to be relatively stable.

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