The cheerful and adaptable pied wagtail


The cheerful and adaptable pied wagtail

The pied wagtail is a familiar and common bird throughout Britain. Its black-and-white markings and long, wagging tail make it easy to identify as it hops across the road or lawn.

Pied Wagtails are elegant birds in constant motion, darting here and there to pick up tiny insects from the grass. This behaviour makes them conspicuous in a garden or town centre, but in the more natural habitat of the shadows by a flowing stream, they can be hard to spot.

Natural roost sites are generally in reed beds, where the water below the reeds helps to keep the birds warm and also means that ground predators are kept away. Pied Wagtails are sociable birds and flock together to roost. They have adapted well to urban development and can often be seen and heard roosting in favoured town centre trees or rooftops at dusk.

Other man-made structures are popular, including hospitals which generally have lots of enclosed courtyards with nice shrubs planted in them. These are sheltered and make excellent roost sites. Others include the cooling towers of power stations, machinery in sewage treatment works, factory roofs, heated greenhouses and large supermarkets. 

Wagtails are also often seen hunting insects on concrete, particularly at airports, and on flat roofs. Since such habitats are ever-expanding in Britain, pied wagtails are a current British wildlife success story and are doing well.

Further reading

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