Motacilla flava (Yellow wagtail) 

Geelkwikkie [Afrikaans]; Russische gele kwikstaart [Dutch]; Bergeronnette printanière [French]; Schafstelze [German]; Alvéola-amarela [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 flava (Yellow wagtail)  Motacilla flava (Yellow wagtail) 

Yellow wagtail, Skåne, Sweden. [photo Kristian Svensson ©]

Yellow wagtail, India. [photo Arpit Deomurari ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds from Europe and northern Africa through Asia to Alaska and north-western Canada, migrating south in the non-breeding season to India, south-east Asia, Australia and sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to Somalia south to southern Africa. Here it is fairly common in patches of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana (especially the Okavango Delta) and South Africa, mainly in Gauteng Province. It generally prefers moist areas, such as the edges of pans, vleis, sewage works and exposed mudbanks, also occurring in cane fields and dry plains near water.

Distribution of Yellow 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.  

Movements and migrations

Non-breeding migrant to southern Africa, arriving in the period from October-November in the north and November-December in the south, leaving in small flocks from March-April throughout the region.


Its diet in southern Africa has not been studied, however in Nigeria it eats insects and other invertebrates, foraging on the ground and in the air. The following food items have been recorded in its diet in Nigeria:


Not threatened.


  • 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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