White wagtail

Motacilla alba

White wagtail, photo: Helsinki Photo Bank

White wagtails are one of the most common guests in our gardens. There are few gardens where these birds have not wagged their tail, for which they are best known. They are the size of sparrows, but slimmer. Their belly is white and the back ash-grey. There is a black spot on the throat and breast and a black ‘hat’ on their head. Their flight style, which is low and wavy, is not half as good as their running-style. They have long and thin feet, which is why they are excellent and fast runners on the ground. They run on the ground to look for food between the tussocks: all kinds of spiders, beetles, and their maggots. They build their nests in half-open tree hollows or under another shelter of sorts, either on the ground or up to several metres high. Their nests look like bowls.