Pied Wagtail – roosts

Motacilla alba yarelli – SIGLEN FRAITH – Breeding resident and passage migrant

In general, the largest counts of Pied Wagtails are usually at winter roosts, which can be in natural areas such as reedbeds, and man-made urban sites that provide some degree of warmth. These can sometimes hold over 600 birds. There was a roost of 600-1,000 in gorse at Martletwy, Pembrokeshire, between January and March 1935, and in more recent times roosts at Teifi Marshes have regularly held over 100 birds, and several hundred have used Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest each winter.

Outside the winter months such gatherings are unusual, but may represent pre-migration staging posts and often include white wagtails along with the pieds. The largest gathering recorded in Pembrokeshire was 1,000 birds, were at the Gulf Refinery, Pembroke, on 18 May 1998.

The following tables show the counts for each site, compiled from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, Graham Rees’s Archive of records, and the Pembrokeshire Bird Sightings Blog.

Goodwick/Fishguard Harbour reedbed

YearMonthCount
1988Aug100
1988Dec50
1989Oct60
1992Aug30
2003Aug162

Teifi Marshes reedbed

YearMonthCount
1996Sep50
2009Mar100
2009Nov100
2012Mar20
2013Apr80
2014Aug50
2016Mar128
2016Jan60
2017Apr100
2019Jan120

Tenby Marshes reedbed

YearMonthCount
1930Aug100
1930Sep300
1984Dec107

Haverfordwest/Withybush buildings

YearMonthCount
1984Oct106
1986Oct200
2017Dec420
2018Dec780
2019Dec650
2021Jan550

Other roost sites

YearMonthCountPlaceHabitat
1935Jan-Mar600-1000MartletwyGorse
1984Sep350Texaco JettyIndustrial
1984Sep60StackpoleMaize field
1994Mar50Nevern BridgeReedbed?
1996Sep150Gann?
1996Sep53Tegryn?
1998May1000Gulf refineryIndustrial
1998Sep70St Davids SchoolSub-urban
1998Mar30StackpoleReedbed
1999Sep75Pembroke Millpond?
2000Sep150Llys-y-fran?
2020Aug50Picton Ferryon a boat!
2020Sep40WintertonReedbed

References:

BTO website

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Pied Wagtail in Pembrokeshire

Pied Wagtail – 2003-07 breeding

Motacilla alba yarelli – SIGLEN FRAITH – Breeding resident and passage migrant

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed159192
Breeding probable38105
Breeding possible9072
No of tetrads occupied287 (of 478)369 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads60%75.3%

The Pied Wagtail, sub- species yarrelli, breeds throughout Pembrokeshire.

In Pembrokeshire, Pied Wagtails utilise a wide range of nesting habitats, ranging from natural cavities, holes and recesses e.g. in rock faces or sea-cliffs, (pers. obs.) banks, old stone walls, buildings, e.g. out buildings, barns, sheds and even castles. Foraging habitats include the foreshore, saltmarsh, farmland, including farm yards and slurry pits, and urban environments.

The 1984-88 tetrad survey confirmed that the Pied Wagtail is a widespread breeding resident.  It was found in most parts of the county, from the coastal fringes and offshore islands to the upper parts of the Preseli Hills.  The map shows that by the 2003-07 tetrad survey, the distribution of breeding Pied Wagtails had become patchy, with gaps opening up in parts of mid-Pembrokeshire and areas such as the Pencaer Peninsula and Cemaes/Poppit/St. Dogmaels area.  These localised losses appear to have been counter-balanced by breeding records obtained in the 2003-07 survey in tetrads where Pied Wagtails had not previously been recorded as confirmed or probable breeding.

The tetrad data indicate an overall increase in the number of tetrads where Pied Wagtails occur as a breeding species:

A 17.2% increase in the number of tetrads in which breeding was confirmed between the two tetrad surveys compares favourably with a 15% increase in the breeding population across the UK as a whole between 1994 and 2007 (data from the BBS survey).

Following the 1984-88 tetrad survey, the total breeding population of Pied Wagtails in the county was estimated to be between 1400 and 1700 pairs, based on an average density of 5-6 pairs per tetrad. On this basis the 2003-07 tetrad survey suggests an increase in the total breeding population, to perhaps 1,700 – 2,000 pairs.

Jane Hodges

Rees G.H., Haycock R.J., Haycock A, Hodges J.E., Sutcliffe S.J., Jenks P, and Dobbins R. 2008, Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pembrokeshire 2003-07. Pembrokeshire Bird Group.

More about the Pied Wagtail in Pembrokeshire

White Wagtail – 1994

White Wagtails subspecies alba pass through Pembrokeshire in both spring (from March to May) and autumn (late August to October), sometimes in considerable numbers, such as 200 at Skokholm on 15 September 1988. Many of these originate in Iceland, judging by ringing recoveries, but it is likely that others are Scandinavian, as their passage coincides with the occurrence of other species from that area, such as Grey-headed Wagtails, Scandinavian Rock Pipits and Bluethroats. Ringing also shows that birds passing through Pembrokeshire journey on to France and Spain on the return migration.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

More about Pied/White Wagtails in Pembrokeshire

Pied Wagtail – 1994

Motacilla alba yarelli – SIGLEN FRAITH – Breeding resident and passage migrant

1984-88
Breeding confirmed159
Breeding probable38
Breeding possible90
No of tetrads occupied287 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads60%

A common resident in Mathew’s (1894) day and a numerous breeder to Lockley et al. (1949). Today the Pied Wagtail subspecies yarrelli breeds throughout the county, but its distribution is a little patchy (see map). It is most numerous in the south of the county and in the Preseli Mountains area, being scarcer over much of the dairyland that dominates central Pembrokeshire. At an estimated average density of five to six pairs per tetrad the total population is about 1,400-1,700 pairs.

There appears to be a small spring passage, with birds in fresh plumage appearing briefly on the coast and islands.

Small numbers, up to ten at a time, are seen on autumn passage on the islands and passing down the coast, and a nestling ringed at St David’s in June 1963 was recovered in France in November 1963.

They form communal roosts during the winter. The roost sites are prone to change, sometimes after being used for years. Roost sizes are mainly between 100 and 300 birds but Lockley et al. recorded up to about 1,000 at Martletwy between January and March 1935.

White Wagtails subspecies alba pass through Pembrokeshire in both spring (from March to May) and autumn (late August to October), sometimes in considerable numbers, such as 200 at Skokholm on 15 September 1988. Many of these originate in Iceland, judging by ringing recoveries, but it is likely that others are Scandinavian, as their passage coincides with the occurrence of other species from that area, such as Grey-headed Wagtails, Scandinavian Rock Pipits and Bluethroats. Ringing also shows that birds passing through Pembrokeshire journey on to France and Spain on the return migration.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

More about Pied/White Wagtails in Pembrokeshire

Pied Wagtail – 1980s winter

Motacilla alba yarelli – SIGLEN FRAITH – Breeding resident and passage migrant

The BTO winter atlas showed that Pied Wagtails were present in most 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84.

The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 19 birds seen in a day, or at roosts.

Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)

Data collected by volunteers for the BTO. Lack, P. 1986 Atlas of wintering birds in Britain and Ireland. T & A.D. Poyser.

More about Pied/White Wagtails in Pembrokeshire

White Wagtail – 1894

Motacilla alba

A summer visitor, no doubt often overlooked and confounded with the Pied Wagtail.

Writing as long ago as 1850, Mr. Tracy says: “I am convinced that a few young birds of the Continental White Wagtail appear on our coasts in the months of September and October.” But the birds pass south again before either of those dates. We saw a flock of from 20 to 30 White Wagtails sitting on the telegraph wires by Treffgarne Bridge towards the end of August, 1884, and the birds were then evidently migrating. On 24th June, 1886, we saw a pair of adult White Wagtails close to Clarbeston Railway Station.

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about Pied/White Wagtails in Pembrokeshire