Motacilla aguimp (African pied wagtail) 

Bontkwikkie [Afrikaans]; Umcelu, Umvemve, Umventshana (generic terms for wagtail) [Xhosa]; umVemve (generic term for wagtail) [Zulu]; Kamukombo (generic term for wagtails) [Kwangali]; Motjoli (generic term for wagtails) [South Sotho]; Umvemve [Swazi]; Afrikaanse bonte kwikstaart [Dutch]; Bergeronnette pie [French]; Witwenstelze [German]; Alvéola-preta-e-branca [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Motacillidae > Genus: Motacilla

Motacilla aguimp (African pied wagtail)  Motacilla aguimp (African pied wagtail) 

African pied wagtail. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

African pied wagtail, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Sudan south to southern Africa. Here it is fairly common in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, eastern and north-western South Africa and northern Namibia, while more scarce in Botswana and the interior of South Africa. It generally prefers wide rivers and other water bodies with sandy banks or scattered boulders, but it may also occupy rocky coastlines. It is also common in man-made habitats, such as parks, playing fields, golf courses, suburban gardens and sewage works.

Distribution of African pied wagtail in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Chicks have been recorded as prey of Centropus burchellii (Burchell's coucal).


It mainly eats insects, especially flies but also other invertebrates, grass seeds, tadpoles, small fish and scraps of human food. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, chasing intruders out of its territory and often attacking its reflection in car mirrors. Breeding pairs rear multiple broods in each breeding season, usually up to three per season in southern Africa, although in Kenya it can bring up seven.
  • The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a deep cup of dry grass, weeds, roots, stems, leaves, downy seeds, flood debris, string and other coarse materials; the interior is lined with rootlets, fine grass, hair and feathers. It is typically placed close to water on the ground or in vegetation, such as reeds, grass and flood debris. Man-made sites are commonly used as well, especially outbuildings, holes in walls, building ledges, bridges, roofs and boats, continuing to care for its brood even if the ship goes out to sea for 9 hours a day.
  • Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking twice from August-November as well as from February-April.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are usually incubated by both sexes for about 12-15 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both sexes on a diet of insects, leaving the nest after about 15-18 days. They remain dependent on their parents for food for about two more weeks, about 3-6 days later they are chased out of the territory so that the adults can rear another brood.


Not threatened, in fact it is closely associated with humans and has benefited from the construction of dams.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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