Motacilla clara (Mountain
wagtail, Long-tailed wagtail)
Bergkwikkie [Afrikaans]; Umcelu, Umvemve, Umventshana
(generic terms for wagtail) [Xhosa]; umVemve (generic term for wagtail)
[Zulu]; Bergkwikstaart [Dutch]; Bergeronnette à longue queue [French];
Langschwanzstelze [German]; Alvéola-rabilonga [Portuguese]
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Reptilia (reptiles) >
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Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves
(birds) > Order: Passeriformes
> Family: Motacillidae > Genus: Motacilla
Distribution and habitat
Occurs in isolated patches across sub-Saharan Africa, from
Guinea to Ethiopia south to Southern Africa. Here it is locally common in the
north and eastern highlands of Zimbabwe and adjacent Mozambique, as well as in
Swaziland and eastern South Africa, from Limpopo Province to the Eastern Cape.
It generally prefers small rivers and streams surrounded by forested hills,
especially with waterfalls and flat rocks immersed in shallow water, surrounded
by hills with forest, woodland or dense thicket. It may also occupy forest
paths, tracks and roads, occasionally moving into gardens.
Distribution of Mountain wagtail in southern Africa,
based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas
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).
It mainly eats insects (especially flies), doing most of
its foraging along watercourses, searching for prey on rocks, in sand and
shallow water. The following food items have been recorded
in its diet:
- Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, usually with a life-long pair
- The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of a bulky cup lined with
rootlets, plant stems and fibrous tissues, on a foundation of material
moistened by water then set to dry. It is typically placed in a cavity or
niche of a stream bank, boulder, rock face or dam wall, alternatively in
plant debris caught in a branch over water, tree near a deep pool or
occasionally in man-made structures, such as under a bridge, in a pumphouse
or on a building roof.
- Egg-laying season is from August-May, peaking from September-December.
- It lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 13-14
days, in shifts of about 15-60 minutes.
- The chicks are fed by both parents and brooded constantly for the first
3-4 days or so of their lives, after which brooding is intermittent, ceasing
completely when they reach about 6-8 days old. They eventually leave the
nest at approximately 14-18 days old, remaining in the adults territory for
roughly 19-48 more days.
Not threatened, although pollution of the rivers and
streams it is dependent on is definitely cause for concern.
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.