Yellow Wagtail – 2011

Motacilla flava – SIGLEN FELEN – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded from December to February

The Yellow Wagtail has a breeding range spread throughout most of the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, extending into Alaska. The western European population winters in Africa. There are at least 15 subspecies, most of which are recognisable in the field. The subspecies which breeds in Britain is M. f. flavissima.

The following account refers to M.f. flavissima unless stated otherwise.

From the time of the first Pembrokeshire avifauna, written in 1894, to the present day, the Yellow Wagtail has principally been a passage migrant recorded in both spring and autumn. The exceptions were when a pair bred successfully at Lower Broadmoor, Talbenny, in 1997 and a pair behaved as if nesting in a potato field at Treginnis in 1983, which disappeared when the crop was harvested. In both cases the male was of the Blue – headed form M.f.flava.

The first record traced of Yellow Wagtails in Pembrokeshire which gave the number involved, the location and the date, was of five at Cilwendeg on the 24th August 1867 noted by Thomas Dix. It was 1930 before the next such record was forthcoming, followed by records in 1931, 1948 and 1949, in four years in the 1950’s, in eight years in the 1960’s, four years in the 1970’s and in every year from 1981 to 2008.

Analysis

Yellow Wagtails have been recorded all around the coast, flying past or feeding on open ground, particularly pasture land with cattle. They have been seen on all of the offshore islands, even Grassholm, a large percentage of the county records being from Skokholm where there has been daily observation continuously since 1946. A few records were from the Teifi Marshes but very few from further inland, the only ones traced being five at Cilwendeg on the 24th August 1867, one at Crymych on the 7th June 1984, one Pen Gawse on the 6th May 1989, one Brynberian on the 2nd September 2001 and one Canaston Oaks on the 7th August 2008.

Yellow Wagtails have drastically declined in the UK since the 1980’s, by 70% between 1981 and 2006. This decline is reflected in the Pembrokeshire records as illustrated in the accompanying graph covering the years 1983 to 2007.

Pembrokeshire: trend in the number of birds per annum.

Spring passage

Spring passage has been recorded from the 3rd April to the 29th June, with early birds at Skokholm on the 17th March 1948 and on the 10th March 1956.

All dated records available 1867 – 2008, in six day periods.

The bulk of the passage has taken place between about mid April and the end of May involving small numbers as shown in the above graph, the maximum recorded in a day being ten.

Autumn passage

Autumn passage has been recorded from the 1st July to the 30th October, with two November records.

There have been very few recorded in July and early August.  Peak passage took place from mid August to September.  The end of August has clearly been the time of maximum presence, when the largest concentrations of up to 50 birds were noted at Skokholm and Talbenny during the 1960’s. Betts (1992) notes “up to 150 in August 1952” at Skokholm but is not date specific, so these could not be fitted into the histogram.  Passage has tailed off rapidly during October. There have been two November occurrences, on the 2nd at Mullock in 1981 and on the 18th at Skokholm in 1967.

Yellow Wagtail: pattern of occurrence

More about the Yellow Wagtail in Pembrokeshire

Yellow Wagtail – races

Motacilla flava – SIGLEN FELEN – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded from December to February

As well as the breeding and probable breeding birds noted before, male Blue–headed WagtailsM. f. flava, which breed in Europe from southern Scandinavia to France,have been recorded in the spring on several occasions: at Skokholm on the 15th May 1958, on the 12th – 14th May 1959, two on the 18th May 1961, on the 29th & 30th May 1963, on the 29th June 1964, on the 27th May 1967, on the 17th May 1982, on the 16th May 1983, on the 12th June 1984, on the 15th – 18th June 1987, on the 11th – 17th June 1988, on the 4th, 8th, 11th and 13th – 14th May 1989, on the 11th May and 27th May 1991, on the 6th May, 22nd and 29th May 1992, on the 27th May 1993, on the 20th April 1996, and on the 26th May 1997, at Skomer on the 21st May 1997, on the 29th April 2000, on the 18th – 23rd  May 1996, on the 14th May 1992, on the 21st May 1993, and at Ramsey on 18th May 1985.

There are also autumn sightings on record, which should perhaps be treated with caution until any recorded details of their appearance can be scrutinised. Plumage becomes abraded and bleached during the summer and moult to winter plumage occurs in August and September. The records are included for future evaluation: two Skomer on the 18th September 1961, two there on the 27th August 1990, one Dale airfield on the 20th September 1986, one Skokholm on the 23rd August 1988, one there on the 4th September 2000, with two on the 24th September 2000, one on the 1st October 2001 and one on the 9th – 12th September 2003.   

Grey – headed Wagtails M. f. thunbergi breed from central and north Scandinavia to north – west Siberia. Males of this race were recorded on passage through Pembrokeshire as follows: at Skokholm on the 31st May 1978, on the 13th – 15th April 1979, on the 13th May 1979 (1979 records no longer acceptable to BBRC), on the 17th May 1982, on the 10th – 12th May 1987, on the 3rd – 5th May 1989, on the 31st May – 5th June 1990, and on the 25th June 1992 (record no longer acceptable to BBRC), at Strumble Head on the 29th May 1983 and Flimston on the 30th May 1998.

A male Spanish Blue – headed Wagtail M. f. iberiae, which breeds in Iberia and Tunisia, was recorded at Skokholm on the 19th April 1989. (record no longer acceptable by BBRC – moved to ‘not proven’)

A male Ashy – headed Wagtail M. f. cinereocapilla, which breeds in Sicily, Sardinia, Italy and Slovenia, was recorded at Skokholm from the 17th to the 20th May 1992. (record no longer acceptable to BBRC)

A male Black – headed Wagtail M. f. feldegg, which breeds in the Balkans, Turkey, Caspian, Iran and Afghanistan, was recorded at Skomer on the 7th May 1986.

NB – Records reviewed by BBRC in 2020, and those no longer acceptable have been marked as such.

More about the Yellow Wagtail in Pembrokeshire

Yellow Wagtail – 1994

Motacilla flava – SIGLEN FELEN – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded from December to February

To Mathew (1894), a rare visitor in spring and autumn, whereas Lockley et al. (1949) found them to be regular passage migrants that were not abundant and did not breed.

A pair bred successfully at Lower Broadmoor, Talbenny, in 1977. The male was of the Blue-headed race M. f. flava, as was the male of a pair that probably attempted breeding at Treginnis in 1983.

Migrant Yellow Wagtails (M. f. flavissima) pass through Pembrokeshire in the spring, generally between late April and June but sometimes from 3 April onwards. One was at Skokholm on 17 March 1948. Up to four birds are seen at various coastal localities, most frequently the offshore islands, but a few have been recorded inland.

They occur again from mid-August to early October, occasionally as early as 9 July and as late as 23 October, with very late birds at Mullock Bridge on 2 November 1981 and at Skokholm on 1  November 1967. Groups of up to eight pass through coastal regions with occasional larger gatherings, the maximum recorded being 50 at Talbenny on 31 August 1963.

Blue-headed Wagtails (M. f. flava) occur in most springs, between 6 May and 29 June. Grey- headed Wagtails (M. f. thunbergii) have been recorded on at least nine occasions, between 13 April and 25 June. A Black-headed Wagtail (M. f. feldegg) was on Skomer on 7 May 1986, a Spanish Blue-headed Wagtail (M. f. iberiae) at Skokholm on 19 April 1989 and an Ashy-headed Wagtail (M. f. cinereocapilla) at Skomer from 17 to 20 May 1992.

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

More about the Yellow Wagtail in Pembrokeshire

Blue-headed Wagtail – 1894

Motacilla flava – A rare summer visitor from the south.

Writing to us from Dale on 18th October, 1886, Mr. H. Mathias informs us: “I am now able to say for certain that the Grey-headed Wagtail is to be found in Pembrokeshire. My friend, the Rev. Lyte Stradling, an ornithologist, told me one day, when we were shooting together, and talking over Pembrokeshire birds, that he had seen a pair of Grey-headed Wagtails on the flat, between the lime kilns and the small bridge, dividing the parishes of Marloes and Dale, on more than one occasion, and yesterday afternoon there was one running about the road in front of my abode at this place. I had a good opportunity of watching it, for it was not five yards from my window to the stream of water by the side of the road, along which it was seeking for food. From the brightness of its colour, I am disposed to think it was an adult male.”

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

NB. Mathew really does use one name for the heading, and another name in the text.

More about the Yellow Wagtail in Pembrokeshire

Yellow Wagtail – 1894

Motacilla raii

A passing visitor in spring and autumn; rare in Pembrokeshire, and occurring only in the southern parts of the county; we have never ourselves seen it. Mr. Dix writes: “I have only once been able to identify this bird in this district, when five were seen on 24th August, 1867. Mr. Tracy, of Pembroke, says: “Tolerably common in small flocks, at the latter end of August and September, frequenting pasture fields where cattle are grazing. I have oftentimes wondered how they avoided being trodden on by the cattle. Good old specimens are very scarce.” It is very doubtful if this species nests within the confines of the county.

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

More about the Yellow Wagtail in Pembrokeshire

Yellow Wagtail

Motacilla flava – SIGLEN FELEN – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded from December to February

Black-headed wagtail – records

Motacilla flava feldegg – SIGLEN FELEN – vagrant A race of the yellow wagtail which breeds in the Balkans, Turkey, Caspian, Iran and Afghanistan 1986 – Skomer on the 7th May 1986. 2013 – A male Black-headed was at Marloes Mere on 12th May (B. Anderson et al). Photo above by Mike Young-Powell Records from […]

Yellow Wagtail – 2011

Motacilla flava – SIGLEN FELEN – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded from December to February The Yellow Wagtail has a breeding range spread throughout most of the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, extending into Alaska. The western European population winters in Africa. There are at least 15 subspecies, most of which are recognisable […]

Yellow Wagtail – races

Motacilla flava – SIGLEN FELEN – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded from December to February As well as the breeding and probable breeding birds noted before, male Blue–headed Wagtails, M. f. flava, which breed in Europe from southern Scandinavia to France,have been recorded in the spring on several occasions: at Skokholm on the 15th May 1958, on […]

Yellow Wagtail – 1994

Motacilla flava – SIGLEN FELEN – Passage migrant, has bred. Not recorded from December to February To Mathew (1894), a rare visitor in spring and autumn, whereas Lockley et al. (1949) found them to be regular passage migrants that were not abundant and did not breed. A pair bred successfully at Lower Broadmoor, Talbenny, in 1977. The […]

Blue-headed Wagtail – 1894

Motacilla flava – A rare summer visitor from the south. Writing to us from Dale on 18th October, 1886, Mr. H. Mathias informs us: “I am now able to say for certain that the Grey-headed Wagtail is to be found in Pembrokeshire. My friend, the Rev. Lyte Stradling, an ornithologist, told me one day, when we were shooting together, and […]

Yellow Wagtail – 1894

Motacilla raii A passing visitor in spring and autumn; rare in Pembrokeshire, and occurring only in the southern parts of the county; we have never ourselves seen it. Mr. Dix writes: “I have only once been able to identify this bird in this district, when five were seen on 24th August, 1867. Mr. Tracy, of Pembroke, says: “Tolerably common in […]