basic information

White Wagtail

Motacilla alba (Linnaeus, 1758)

Белая трясогузка | Ақ шақшақай

Uralsk, Kirov park.
© Askar Isabekov


The White Wagtail is sparrow-sized but very slender bird. It is colored in black, white and grey. The male has black crown from the forehead to nape, the female's crown is usually grey or black on fore-crown only. The male has plain black bib from the chin to upper breast; female sometimes has white chin and throat, its black bib is shorter below. Some females are similar on males; with all black crown and large plain bib. In autumn plumage general colors remain; but black bib becomes the crescent-shaped patch. The forehead of females becomes grey, with black mottles on males and dark females; the crown becomes more or less grey; the remained black color becomes browner. Juveniles on first plumage are brownish-grey with off-white abdomen. The color of juveniles is quite variable; it is easy to mix up them with juveniles of Yellow and Citrine Wagtails. But young White Wagtails lack the pale supercilium fore eye and the fine rusty tinge. in autumn the black bib distinctly appears; the grey color becomes purer as at adults. Weight 17-27 grams, length about 18, wing 8,2-9,6, wingspan 25-30 cm.


The White Wagtail in Kazakhstan breeds in northern steppes and forest-steppes, on all other territory occurs on migration. The detailed distribution in Kazakhstan please see in the chapter "Races".


The White Wagtail is common breeding migrant. Inhabits open areas often near water; flooded meadows near little forests and human settlements in steppe. During migration occurs in reed beds, where it roosts, and in foothills up to 1700 m. Appears early – mid March in southern areas, and end March – early April in northern ones, in flocks of several dozen birds. Migrate mostly mid March to mid April, last migrants occurs mid – end May. Breeds in separate pairs at 35-200 m one from another. Males appear before females and occupy the territory; but some pairs form during the migration. Nests in the shore banks; on the ground under shrub or root shelter; in tree cavities on 1-4 m from the ground; under the bridges and in the cavities of constructions. Both partners construct it from thin twigs, dry grass, moss and rootlets and line with plenty of hair for 3-25 days. Clutches of 3-8, more often of 5-6 eggs are laid early May – early July. Both parents incubate for 12-14 days and feed juveniles, which fledge at 14-15 days, early June – mid July. Most pairs are one brooded. Repeated breeding after the nest losing is very common. Autumn migration begins late August, most birds leave in September. Last autumn migrants recorded mid – late October. On Chardara reservoir one bird observed 18-21 December 2003.


Motacilla alba alba (Linnaeus, 1758)

    Description. The mantle is grey, throat is black. No black stripe between bill and nape. White edges on greater and median wing coverts and tertials are narrower; white on the wing is less extensive than on dukhunensis.
    Distribution. Breeds in Volga-Ural region including Ural valley.

Motacilla alba dukhunensis (Sykes, 1832)

    Description. The mantle is grey, throat is black. No black stripe between bill and nape. White edges on greater and median wing coverts and tertials are broader; white on the wing is more extensive than on alba.
    Distribution. Breeds in northern parts of Kazakhstan from Ural valley eastward to western foothills of Altai; in the south to lower Turgay river and Shortandy area. Episodically breeds on Kalbinskiy Altai. At Kurgaldzhino Reserve, on Markakol lake and in south observed on migration only. Recorded 24 December 1991 in Aksu-Dzhabagly.

Motacilla alba ocularis (Swinhoe, 1860)

    Description. The mantle is grey, throat is black. Differs from alba, dukhunensis and baicalensis by the narrow black eye-strip connected with black nape. This black strip separates the white forehead and supercilium from the white ears, under eye area and neck sides. White edges on greater and median wing coverts and tertials are broader; white on the wing is more extensive than on dukhunensis.
    Distribution. Rarely occurs on migration in southeast Kazakhstan (12 May 2003, 13 May 2009 in Kolshengel, 11 April 1899 in Kapchagay).

Motacilla alba baicalensis (Swinhoe, 1871)

    Description. The mantle is grey, throat is white. No black stripe between bill and nape. White edges on greater and median wing coverts and tertials are broader; white on the wing is more extensive than on ocularis.
    Distribution. Three birds were obtained on migration in southeast Kazakhstan (11 April 1899 Kapchagay, 14 March 1899 Almaty, 8 April 1900 Dzharkent). In spring of 2014 two birds were observed on Sorbulak and another one on Kanshengel.

Motacilla (alba) leucopsis (Gould, 1838)

    Description. The main features: black mantle, black bib not expanded in chin and throat.
    Distribution. One vagrant bird was recorded at May 21st, 2018 by Sveta Ashby.


Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005. В.К.Рябицев. "Птицы Урала, Приуралья и Западной Сибири". Екатеринбург, Изд-во Уральского университета, 2000. Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999.



Motacilla alba alba
(Linnaeus, 1758)
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Motacilla alba dukhunensis
(Sykes, 1832)
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Motacilla alba ocularis
(Swinhoe, 1860)
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Motacilla alba baicalensis
(Swinhoe, 1871)
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Motacilla (alba) leucopsis
(Gould, 1838)
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Motacilla (alba x personata)
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