The Grey Wagtail, unlike its name, is a pretty colorful bird with slate grey upperparts and yellow vent contrasting with whitish underparts which makes it distinctive. The scientific name for the grey wagtail is Motacilla cinerea and is a member of the wagtail family, Motacillidae.  Like other wagtails, they frequently wag their tails and fly with undulations and often call while in flight. They have a clear sharp call note and the song consists of trills.

The individual in the image was spotted on the 15th of Jan, 2022 near the reception pond at The Machan. I had only heard its distinctive call before but started sighting it only after the pond was lined with jute mats. I am assuming that the jute mat must be harboring small insects which make a major part of the bird’s diet. It’s been coming every morning between 7 am and 8:30 am and keeps foraging on the jute mat.  It is sometimes accompanied by its cousin species, the white-browed wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis).

Grey wagtails are widely distributed across the Palearctic region and are winter migrants to peninsular India. They make a pan-India presence from September onwards as they descend all the way from the Himalayas, which are their breeding grounds. A single wagtail can eat hundreds of insects in a day and thus protecting the ecosystem by playing a vital role as an effective and non-invasive pest controller. The Grey wagtails return to their breeding grounds in April-May. According to Dr. Rajah Jayapal of the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, Grey wagtails are known for their clockwork precision and site fidelity as they visit the same place at the same time every year, during their lifespan of about 10 years.

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