After a little break the Species Spotlight is back, although from now on it won't be every day. Today's species is a bird that is still quite common in towns and cities in the UK - the Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii).
When I was young (probably before I started calling myself a birdwatcher (so really very young)) I used to think that Pied Wagtails and Magpies were big and small versions of the same thing. They are both black and white with long tails after all. However, as you might already know, they are not closely related at all. Magpies are large, noisy (and disliked by many people - unjustly in my view) birds in the crow family, while Pied Wagtails are friendly little things which are often seen in urban areas.
You may have noticed that the scientific name that I have given above has three parts instead of the usual two. This is because our Pied Wagtail is actually the British and Irish sub-species of a much more widespread species called the White Wagtail. The first part of the name, Motacilla, is the genus to which all the wagtails belong. The second part, alba, is the specific name for White Wagtail, and the third part, yarrellii, is the name of the subspecies which in English is called Pied Wagtail, and is named after the prominent English zoologist William Yarrell (1784-1856) who wrote, among many other volumes, A History of British Birds (first published in 1843).
Pied Wagtails (and all White Wagtails) have a distinctive two-note flight call - chizzik- leading to them being called (by some birders) Chiswick Flyovers. Another interesting fact about them is that in winter, flocks often congregate together in town centres where they roost overnight in street trees or on the window-ledges of buildings.
|The dark grey (rather than black) on the back of this |
Pied Wagtail indicates that it is a female
(Photo by Colin Conroy, Stewarts Park, Middlesbrough, Sept 2020)