Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Observations of Yellow Wagtails at Bodney, Norfolk 16th April 2013

Following a wet winter, the flood plains along the Watton brook valley adjacent to the B1108/Bodney Camp still have standing water, although it was evident from a tide-line that levels were previously higher.
I parked at ‘The Arms’ and walked to the camp with migrant Wagtail species in mind and almost immediately upon my arrival, an initial scan produced a couple of Yellow Wagtails. An overall search of this area soon produced 6 Yellow Wagtails, all of which were of the British flavissima race.
Although quite distant, these gems of birds were conspicuous amongst the grass, and movement was detected even with the naked eye. These are active birds in that they walk and run fast with an exaggerated head movement.  The birds generally remained in a loose gathering and if disturbed would fly up with Meadow Pipits.

Yellow Wagtail 16/04/13 Bodney, Norfolk

Identification: All 6 yellow Wagtails were of the British flavissima race, of all races within this complex group, ours has the brightest yellow plumage.  It is also interesting to note that all birds were males (see reference notes below).
When dealing with the various races of Yellow Wagtail, the head area needs most attention with regard to a proper identification. My observations are as follows.
These Yellow Wagtails appeared as very bright little birds as they walked and ran with jerking back and forth head movements. The ‘facial’ area, throat, breast, and all underparts are bright yellow; the crown is pale greenish-yellow as are the ear-coverts. The ear-coverts and the pale greenish-yellow lores highlight the bright yellow supercillium.  The mantle is green and contrasts well with the bright yellow parts of the bird. The dark wings are fringed white and there are two obvious white wing-bars. The black upper-tail has white outer feathers.

Reference: British Larks, Pipits and Wagtails (Eric Simms)
Migrations and Movements (Page 271)
Yellow Wagtails migrate in small flocks but then disperse after their arrival into Britain.  The main arrival period is from the second week of April into the first week of May, however, birds can arrive as early as February and March and extend to as late as mid-May.
Simms writes in the above reference that male Yellow Wagtails arrive in Britain some two weeks or so prior to female birds, this is clearly corroborated by my Yellow Wagtails at Bodney which were all males, additionally, their presence at Bodney on 16th April is a very typical arrival date for this species in Britain.


  1. For me, all the variations of Yellow Wagtail have now passed through so we just have our own Blue-headed Wagtail on the local rivers and beaches, fields, etc (Motacilla flava iberiae). Great shot of the Coal Tit, Paul.

    Now going to post so will check later that all is well!


    1. Bob, once again you have assisted me with the blog and I am very grateful to you. I have managed successfully to post a couple of comments on two of your recent blogs.

      Thank you once again.