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Friday, May 20, 2022

Birdwatch: Grey Wagtail, the small bird with a big flight

🔴 The Grey Wagtail is among the few bird species that arrive early in the winter but leave in the end, often staying till April.

Written by Saurabh Parashar |
Updated: January 27, 2022 2:35:02 pm
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla Cinerea) is a small member of the Wagtail family, Motacillidae.

It likes to hop along with me throughout the 3-km-long seasonal rivulet passing through the wildlife sanctuary Khol-Hi-Raitan nestled in the picturesque Morni Hills, 20 km away from Chandigarh. But its speed and small flights were fast.

While I was taking two steps, the tiny Grey Wagtail, which is occasionally mistaken for the Yellow Wagtail, with its wagging tail was covering at least 10 metre in one flight. My numerous attempts to capture it on my digital camera equipped with a 55mm”-250mm” lens were futile. Wagtail, as is evident from its name, wags its tail frequently.

In the beginning of a harsh winter, Grey Wagtails, an altitudinal migratory bird, along with its other wagtail species, migrate to lowland areas. Wagtails can be spotted in towns, farmyards but the best places to observe these pretty birds are the shallow water bodies and river stretches where they can find insects in abundance.

In this sense, the seasonal rain-fed river stretch in the Khol-Hi-Raitan sanctuary was the perfect place for my winged companion. It takes shelter in small holes and cavities situated along the river on the hillsides.

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The Grey Wagtail is among the few bird species that arrive early in the winter but leave in the end, often staying till April.

There is no need to go to hotspots of migratory birds like Sukhna Lake, Motemajra, Chappar Chiri to have a glimpse of this species. If you carefully inspect your surroundings in public parks etc, you will easily spot a wagtail.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla Cinerea) is a small member of the Wagtail family, Motacillidae. It has yellow on its underside restricted to the throat and vent. Breeding males have a black throat. As for the size, this bird measures 18-19 cm in length. The female too has a dark spot on the throat during its mating season. In Punjabi folklore, this bird is popularly called ‘Saleeti Mamola’.

The species is widely distributed, with several populations breeding in Europe and Asia, and migrating to tropical regions in Asia and Africa. Like other wagtails, they frequently wag their tail and fly low with undulations and they have a sharp call that is often given in flight.

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