Tim Melling – Yellow Wagtail

The subspecies of Yellow Wagtail that breeds in Britain is flavissima, which means very yellow, as opposed to the nominate Continental breeding subspecies flava, which just means yellow.  The two are pretty similar from the neck down but our British flavissima is also yellow on the throat, cheeks and eyebrow with a complementary green crown and eyestripe.  The British Yellow Wagtail population has been in steep decline particularly since the 1980s. Between 1967 and 2013 the breeding population dropped by nearly 75% with the losses mainly from the margins of its distribution.  It is now largely found in central and eastern England but has all-but disappeared from the uplands where it used to nest in hay-meadows.  Now it nests in damp places, low-lying farmland and river valleys.  It increasingly nests in arable crops (eg rape, root crops and peas) but feeds mainly in pasture or along drainage ditches.

All races of Yellow Wagtail winter in sub-Saharan West Africa where they roost communally in reedbeds.  I have also seen thousands of Yellow Wagtails roosting in wetland reedbeds in the Middle East where all races occur together.  I photographed this dapper male on a farm track in South Yorkshire where there were arable crops and drainage ditches.


1 Reply to “Tim Melling – Yellow Wagtail”

  1. As a fledgling birder in my teens when we lived adjacent to Harrogate golf course, some 50+ years ago I remember some mid April early mornings on the course when each of the greens looked at hosted a number of Yellow Wagtails But then in the same area around the same time I once saw a flock of 13 Cuckoos. How times change, here in Mid Wales I’ve not seen a Yellow Waggy this year and they are beautiful.
    Lovely photo Tim.

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