Pied Wagtail

Motacilla alba


A common and familiar bird, the pied wagtail is often seen in towns and cities, dashing across lawns, roads and car parks while wagging its long tail up and down. Pied wagtails eat insects but will feed on seeds and even rubbish in winter. They flock together at warm roost sites like reedbeds and sewage works or trees and bushes in city centres. In summer they defend breeding territories and will nest in ivy, under roofs, in walls, between stones; in all kinds of places!

How to identify

Pied wagtails are a familiar black and white bird with a white face, white belly and white bars on the wings. The other two breeding species of wagtail in the UK both have yellow underparts. The White Wagtail, a rare visitor in spring, looks very similar but has a pale grey back.

Where to find it



When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

To ensure that we keep populations of birds like pied wagtails healthy, The Wildlife Trusts are working towards a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Pied Wagtail
Latin name
Motacilla alba
Larks, sparrows, wagtails and dunnock
Length: 18cm Wingspan: 28cm Weight: 21g Average Lifespan: 2 years
Conservation status