The wagtails, longclaws and pipits are a family, Motacillidae, of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. There are around 65 species in 6 genera. The longclaws are entirely restricted to the Afrotropics, and the wagtails are predominantly found in Europe, Africa and Asia, with two species migrating and breeding in Alaska. The pipits have the most cosmopolitan distribution, being found across mostly in the Old World but occurring also in the Americas and oceanic islands such as New Zealand and the Falklands. Two African species, the yellow-breasted pipit and Sharpe's longclaw, are sometimes placed in a separate seventh genus, Hemimacronyx, which is closely related to the longclaws.[1]

Most motacillids are ground-feeding insectivores[2] of slightly open country. They occupy almost all available habitats, from the shore to high mountains. Wagtails prefer wetter habitats to the pipits. A few species use forests, including the forest wagtail, and other species use forested mountain streams, such as the grey wagtail or the mountain wagtail.

Motacillids take a wide range of invertebrate prey, especially insects are the most commonly taken, but also including spiders, worms, and small aquatic molluscs and arthropods. All species seem to be fairly catholic in their diet, and the most commonly taken prey for any particular species or population usually reflects local availability.

With the exception of the forest wagtail, they nest on the ground,[2] laying up to six speckled eggs.

White-browed Wagtail I MG 9376
White-browed wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Motacillidae
Horsfield, 1821


Wagtails, pipits, and longclaws are slender, small to medium-sized passerines, ranging from 14 to 17 centimetres in length, with short necks and long tails.[2] They have long, pale legs with long toes and claws, particularly the hind toe which can be up to 4 cm in length in some longclaws. There is no sexual dimorphism in size. Overall the robust longclaws are larger than the pipits and wagtails. Longclaws can weigh as much as 64 g, whereas the weight range for pipits and wagtails is 15–31 g. The plumage of most pipits is dull brown and reminiscent of the larks, although some species have brighter plumages, particularly the golden pipit of north-east Africa. The adult male longclaws have brightly coloured undersides. The wagtails often have striking plumage, including grey, black, white, and yellow.

Species and genera

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni) in Kolkata W IMG 4336
Olive-backed pipit, Anthus hodgsoni
Forest wagtail
Forest wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus
Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus)
Yellow-throated longclaw, Macronyx croceus
Paddyfield Pipit in Bhopal
Paddyfield Pipit, Anthus rufulus

Family: Motacillidae


  1. ^ Voelker, Gary; Scott V. Edwards (1998). "Can weighting improve bushy trees? Models of cytochrome b evolution and the molecular systematics of pipits and wagtails (Aves: Motacillidae)". Systematic Biology. 47 (4): 589–603. doi:10.1080/106351598260608. PMID 12066304.
  2. ^ a b c Clancey, P.A. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 172–173. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.

External links

African pied wagtail

The African pied wagtail, or African wagtail, (Motacilla aguimp) is a species of bird in the family Motacillidae.

Australasian pipit

The Australasian pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae) is a fairly small passerine bird of open country in Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. It belongs to the pipit genus Anthus in the family Motacillidae.

It was formerly lumped together with the Richard's, African, Mountain and Paddyfield pipits in a single species: Richard's pipit, Anthus novaeseelandiae. Some authors split the Australasian pipit further into two species: Australian pipit (Anthus australis) in Australia and New Guinea and New Zealand pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae), also called pihoihoi, in New Zealand.

Bajwat Wildlife Sanctuary

The Bajwat Wildlife Sanctuary in Pakistan protects a complex of natural riverine habitats along the Chenab River and two of its tributaries, extending up to the border with India. Its total area of 5,400 hectares (13,000 acres) provides protection for waterfowl, as well as a variety of mammals including hog deer and nilgai. Scientists have recorded 110 species of birds on the site. The most common are species of the family Motacillidae. The sanctuary is in the Sialkot District.

Bushveld pipit

The Bushveld pipit, bush pipit, or little pipit, (Anthus caffer) is a species of bird in the pipit and wagtail family Motacillidae. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and dry savanna.

Citrine wagtail

The citrine wagtail (Motacilla citreola) is a small songbird in the family Motacillidae.

Forest wagtail

The forest wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus) is a medium-sized passerine bird in the wagtail family Motacillidae. It has a distinctive plumage that sets it apart from other wagtails and has the habit of wagging its tail sideways unlike the usual up and down movements of the other wagtail species. It is the only wagtail species that nests in trees. They are found mainly in forested habitats, breeding in the temperate parts of east Asia and wintering across tropical Asia from India to Indonesia.

Golden pipit

The golden pipit (Tmetothylacus tenellus) is a distinctive pipit of dry country grassland, savanna and shrubland in eastern Africa. It is native to Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, and has occurred as a vagrant to Oman, South Africa and Zimbabwe.The adult male, unlike most pipits, is very easy to identify. It is yellow below and yellow in the wings. From the front the yellow throat and breast with the dark band does resemble the yellow-throated longclaw or Pangani longclaw, but neither have yellow wings (very obvious in flight) and both have a black line in the face. The female golden pipit is a fairly typical brown pipit but has a yellow underside to the wing.

It is gold in colour.

Japanese wagtail

The Japanese wagtail (Motacilla grandis) is a species of bird in the pipit and wagtail family Motacillidae. It breeds in Japan and Korea. Vagrant birds have been recorded in Taiwan, eastern China and far-eastern Russia. In Japan, it is generally common from Kyushu northward, but uncommon in northern and central Hokkaido. It breeds near human habitation in hilly countryside. It prefers the water's edge on gravelly rivers, ponds, and inland lakes.

List of birds of Mont-Tremblant National Park

This lists the species of birds in Mont-Tremblant National Park in Quebec, Canada. The bolded species indicate that they are threatened in the area.


The madanga or rufous-throated white-eye (Anthus ruficollis) is a species of bird that was formerly included in the Zosteropidae family but is now thought to be an atypical member of the family Motacillidae consisting of the pipits and wagtails. Its close relatives are tree pipits of the genus Anthus, and is endemic to the moist, mountainous, subtropical and tropical forests of the Indonesian island Buru. The bird was initially described from four specimens collected in April 1922 from one area in the western part of the island, near the settlement Wa Fehat, at elevations between 820 m (2,690 ft) and 1,500 m (4,900 ft). These observations were reproduced on two birds in December 1995 at Wakeika, at elevation of 1,460 m (4,790 ft); changes in the bird's habitat at Wa Fehat were also noted in 1995. The bird was observed only in a few localities and neither its habitat area nor population are reliably known. The population is estimated at more than several hundred individuals, and the habitat at several hundreds km2 from the available on Buru area above 1,200 meters (872 km²) and above 1,500 m (382 km²); the birds are believed to disperse over their habitat rather than form groups. Because the species are restricted to a single island and its habitat is threatened by logging and other human activities, it is listed as endangered by the IUCN since 1996.The madanga most likely eats small invertebrates recovered from bark and lichen. The bird has distinct coloration and body features which distinguish it from other Zosterops genera within the Zosteropidae family, namely lack of the characteristic white eye-ring; longer toes, wing and tail, and the pointed shape of the rectrices (part of the tail).A 2015 DNA analysis indicates the species is more closely related to the pipits than the white-eyes, and some taxonomic authorities now tend to regard it as being a member of the family Motacillidae within the clade containing pipits in the genus Anthus.

Mountain pipit

The mountain pipit (Anthus hoeschi) is a species of bird in the family Motacillidae.

It is found in Lesotho, South Africa, possibly Botswana, possibly Democratic Republic of the Congo, possibly Namibia, and possibly Zambia.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland.

Mountain wagtail

The mountain wagtail (Motacilla clara), also known as the long-tailed wagtail or grey-backed wagtail, is a species of wagtail of the family Motacillidae from sub-Saharan Africa.


The pipits are a cosmopolitan genus, Anthus, of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. Along with the wagtails and longclaws, the pipits make up the family Motacillidae. The genus is widespread, occurring across most of the world, except the driest deserts, rainforests and the mainland of Antarctica.

They are slender, often drab, ground-feeding insectivores of open country. Like their relatives in the family, the pipits are monogamous and territorial. Pipits are ground nesters, laying up to six speckled eggs.

Richard's pipit

Richard's pipit (Anthus richardi) is a medium-sized passerine bird which breeds in open grasslands in northern Asia. It is a long-distance migrant moving to open lowlands in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is a rare but regular vagrant to western Europe.

The genus name Anthus is the Latin name for a small bird of grasslands. The English name and richardi are for the French naturalist Charles Richard (1745–1835), director of postal services at Lunéville and friend of Francois Levaillant.It belongs to the pipit genus Anthus in the family Motacillidae. It was formerly lumped together with the Australasian, African, mountain and paddyfield pipits in a single species: Richard's pipit, Anthus novaeseelandiae. These pipits are now commonly considered to be separate species although the African and paddyfield pipits are sometimes treated as part of A. richardi.

Rosy pipit

The rosy pipit (Anthus roseatus) is a species of bird in the family Motacillidae.

It is found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, South Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Striped pipit

The striped pipit (Anthus lineiventris) is a species of bird in the family Motacillidae, which is native to Africa southwards of the equator.

Upland pipit

The upland pipit (Anthus sylvanus) is a species of bird in the family Motacillidae.

It is found in Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.


The wagtails are a genus, Motacilla, of passerine birds in the family Motacillidae. The forest wagtail belongs to the monotypic genus Dendronanthus which is closely related to Motacilla and sometimes included herein. The common name and genus names are derived from their characteristic tail pumping behaviour. Together with the pipits and longclaws they form the family Motacillidae.

The willie wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) of Australia is an unrelated bird similar in coloration and shape to the Japanese wagtail. It belongs to the fantails.

Yellow-throated longclaw

The yellow-throated longclaw (Macronyx croceus) is a species of bird in the family Motacillidae. It is found in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its natural habitats are dry savanna, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, and sandy shores.

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