Pied wagtail

Pied wagtail

©Margaret Holland

Pied wagtail

Scientific name: Motacilla alba
The pied wagtail is a familiar bird across town and countryside. Its black-and-white markings and long, wagging tail make it easy to identify as it hops across the road or lawn.

Species information


Length: 18cm
Wingspan: 28cm
Weight: 21g
Average lifespan: 2 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


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

The pied wagtail is 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.



Did you know?

Although they usually live life in the fast lane, the maximum recorded age for a pied wagtail is 11 years and 3 months.

How people can help

Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden birds by providing food and water for them. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit the wildlife gardening section of the website, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started. To buy bird food, feeders and other wildlife products, visit the Vine House Farm website - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm that gives 4% of all its takings plus £10 commission for each new customer to The Wildlife Trusts.