Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea schmitzi Tschusi, 1900

Order: Passeriformes Family: Motacillidae Status: Breeding in Madeira

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Grey Wagtail Field ID Keys

Shape & Size

Slim wagtail with a very long tail and short legs.

Colour Pattern

Grey Wagtail body is elegant with yellow underparts, a distinct pale supercilium, and a dark grey back from the head down to the long tail, with the wings being darker. Males can be distinguished from females by a black bib.
The M. c. schmitzi is a subspecies endemic to Madeira and it distinguishes from its nominal species by its darker back and more yellow undersides.


This bird is easily recognized when at rest by the way it pumps its long tail strongly up and down. It has a distinguishing undulating manner of flight, generally accompanied by a sharp double call.


Grey Wagtail may choose various types of habitat but all of these must have water present in the form of small streams, water courses, wells, etc.
This subspecies is evenly distributed throughout the island of Madeira and Porto Santo islands, from the sea-shore up to the high altitudes, being found more commonly in moist areas close to water courses.

Distinction from similar species

May have some similarities with Yellow Wagtail or female Citrine Wagtail but when well seen Grey wagtail has a much darker back and no yellow on the face.

Motacilla cinerea Biometrics

Wingspan: 25 - 27 cm (Hume, 2002)
Total length: 18 - 19 cm (Beaman & Madge, 2011)
Weight: 15 - 23 g (Hume, 2002)

Other Bird Facts

Seasonality in Madeira: All year
Breeding: Its teacup shaped nest is normally built in rock crevices or between stream-side vegetation roots, under bridges or in walls. The bird lays from 4 to 6 eggs in each of two clutches between April and August.
Diet: Takes flies and small invertebrates from the ground or on the air.


Madeira local status by Correia-Fagundes et al, 2021: Common breeding bird
Madeira local status by Romano et al, 2010: Common breeding bird
Madeira local status by Zino et al, 1995: Common breeding bird
Conservation status by the IUCN Red List Categories, 2013: Least Concern ver 3.1

Name of this species in other languages

Madeiran: Lavandeira
Portuguese: Alvéola-cinzenta
German: Gebiergsstelze-schmitzi, Gebirgsstelze
Dutch: Grote Gele Kwikstaart
Swedish: Forsärla
Danish: Bjergvipstjert
Finish: Virtavästäräkki
Norwegian: Vintererle
Spanish: Lavandera Cascade√Īa
French: Bergeronnette des ruisseaux
Italian: Ballerina gialla
Polish: Pliszka górska
Slovak: Trasochvost horsk√Ĺ
Czech: Konipas horsk√Ĺ
English synonyms: Gray Wagtail

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