basic information

Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea (Tunstall, 1771)

Горная трясогузка | Тау шақшақай
spring male

Little Almaty river, Ile Alatau National Park
© Askar Isabekov


The adult male of the Grey Wagtail in breeding plumage have ashy-grey crown, ear coverts, neck and mantle; the rump and uppertail are yellowish-green. The flight feathers are black-brown; the last secondaries are with white or grayish edges on the outer webs. The white bases of the secondaries form the faint speculum. The lesser wing coverts are grey; the greater and median coverts are dark-brownish with pale edges. The tail is long; the tail feathers are black-brownish; the three outer pairs are white; the second and third pairs have variable brownish color. Supercilium is white. On the throat sides there are two white strips; the chin and throat are black often with whitish tips of feathers. Other underparts are bright-yellow. The underwing coverts and axillaries are white. Bill and claws are black, legs are pale-brownish, eyes are brown. The adult female in breeding plumage has less bright underparts (pale-yellow); the chin and throat are white; supercilium is narrower. In autumn plumage birds are greenish-olive tinged above; the black patch on the male's throat mostly hid by the broad white edges of feathers; there are broad greenish-white edges on wings. Juveniles are grey above, uppertail is yellowish-green. Supercilium and underparts are off-white yellow tinged on the breast, abdomen and undertail; yellow becomes intensively on the undertail. The males have dark mottled craw and sides of throat. The median and greater upperwing coverts are with pale olive-grey edges; the last secondaries have greenish-white edges. Weight - 14,5-18,5 grams; wing 78-89 , tail 74-104 mm.


The Grey Wagtail breeds in Tien Shan and Karatau; in Dzhungarskiy Alatau; Tarbagatay; Saur; southwest Altai and Kalbinskiy Altai. Also nests in Chu-Iliyskiye mountains (at Khantau); on western shore of Balkhash lake; and probably in Kokchetav and Kazakh uplands; but no any data from these regions. On migration occurs almost throughout; it was observed on Ural river near Kulagino; in lower reaches of Turgay river; in Kurgaldzhino Reserve; Naurzum Reserve; on Mangyshlak; and in Tashkent area.


The Grey Wagtail is common breeding migrant. Inhabits mountain rivers, lakes and streams up to 3000 m in Tien Shan and 1900 m in Altai, and rare on nearby plains at 500-700 m. During migration birds visit lake and river shores and reed beds on plains. Appears mid March to early May, singly or in small groups of 5-10 birds. Last spring migrants recorded end May. Breeds in separate pairs 40-100 m from each other. Nest is built on ground under stone or grass shelter, in precipice, in bridge culverts, wood piles, and rare inside piping or in tree. It is made from dry grass stems and leaves, rootlets and is lined with plenty of hair, by both partners for 4-12 days. Clutches of 3-7 eggs appears mid May – early July. Both parents incubate for 11-12 days, and feed juveniles, which fledge at 12-15 days, in mid June – end July. Some pairs in highland are double brooded (proved by ringing). Devastated nests (Crow, Magpie, Cuckoo, Ermine) are commonly replaced. Autumn migration begins in August. Most birds migrate in September, last recorded early – mid October.


Motacilla cinerea melanope (Pallas, 1776)


Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005.
"Птицы Казахстана" том 3. "Наука". Алма-Ата, 1970.
Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999.



Motacilla cinerea melanope
(Pallas, 1776)

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