The Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) is a small passerine in the wagtail family Motacillidae, which also includes the pipits and longclaws. This species was first described by Marmaduke Tunstall in his 1771 Ornithologia Britannica.
Its relationships are not well resolved; while it belongs to the non-African clade of wagtails, these are confusing in their external morphology, and mtDNA cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 sequence data are not able to robustly resolve their relationships. While the present species is probably most closely related to Citrine Wagtails and some Blue-headed Wagtails, the exact nature of this relationship is at present indeterminable.
This species breeds in much of temperate Europe and Asia and parts of north Africa. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, such as western Europe, but northern and eastern populations migrates to Africa, South Asia and Papua New Guinea.
This is an insectivorous bird of fast flowing streams, although in winter it will move to slower flowing lowland waters.
It nests in crevices in cliffs and rocks, laying 3-6 speckled eggs.
This is a slender bird, 17-20cm in length, with the characteristic long, constantly wagging tail of its genus. It is the longest tailed of the European wagtails.
The breeding adult male is basically grey above and yellow below, with a black throat. Other plumages lack the black throat, and the yellow may be diluted by white except in the undertail area.
The call is a sharper version of that of White Wagtail.
Breeding male at 2000 metres (6500 ft) in India
Breeding female 2000 metres (6500 ft) in India
In breeding plumage in Himachal Pradesh
At New Alipore, Kolkata
at New Alipore
Grey Wagtail in winter grounds at New Alipore,
Adult, spring, England
Juvenile, spring, England