Country Corner

A pied wagtail
A pied wagtail

It may be common but the Pied Wagtail is always worth watching.

Chasing insects across a lawn, or even in mid air, this acrobatic little bird is always active and eye catching.

Wagtails are often thought of as riverside birds.

In the case of the grey wagtail and many pied wagtails, that is undeniably true.

However, it is quite common to meet pied wagtails almost anywhere.

They are even happy to nest among industrial sites as work goes on around them. I have even known them to nest in the engines of vehicles.

Unusually for such a common bird, the pied wagtail is sought after by bird watchers for a particular reason.

This is because it is not so much a species as a race of the European white wagtail.

White wagtails can be seen here during migration, especially along the coast. Deciding if a bird is a white or pied wagtail is not always a straight forward task. Much of the confusion is caused by the great variety of plumage patterns between males, females and juveniles of both species.

Another seemingly strange aspect of pied wagtail life is the way these lone insect chasers will become very gregarious in winter, often forming night roosts of several thousand birds.

Like starlings, they often choose town centre locations for these communal roosts.

Such sites are often a few degrees warmer than in the open countryside, and a lot more sheltered.

This year’s fledglings are already on wing of course.

So keep your eyes open for this charismatic wee bird, the pied wagtail.