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Yellow Wagtails

Yellow Wagtails
Photo Information
Copyright: Pekka Valo (pekkavalo1) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 423 W: 54 N: 2120] (6789)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-05-31
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f4.0 DO IS USM, RAW ISO 800, Canon EF 2x Extender II
Exposure: f/13.0, 1/640 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
Date Submitted: 2008-06-13 1:44
Viewed: 3647
Points: 20
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
A Dark-headed Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava thunbergi) at Friskalanlahti nature reserve (Turku, Finland). In Southern Finland two Yellow Wagtail subspecies are seen regularly: more regularly the Blue headed (ssp flava) and sometimes this Dark-headed (ssp thunbergi). This time I saw both and they looked like a pair. Picture of both together is posted as WORKSHOP.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava, is a small passerine in the wagtail family Motacillidae, which also includes the pipits and longclaws. This species breeds in much of temperate Europe and Asia and has a foothold in North America in Alaska. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, such as western Europe, but northern and eastern populations migrate to Africa and south Asia. The Beringian population, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, winters further down the Pacific coast.
This is an insectivorous bird of open country near water, such as wet meadows. It nests in tussocks, laying 4-8 speckled eggs. This is a slender 15-16 cm long bird, with the characteristic long, constantly wagging tail of its genus. It is the shortest tailed of the European wagtails. The breeding adult male is basically olive above and yellow below. In other plumages, the yellow may be diluted by white. The heads of breeding males come in a variety of colours and patterns depending on subspecies.

This species' systematics and phylogeny is extremely confusing. Literally dozens of subspecies have been described at one time or another, and some 15-20 are currently considered valid depending on which author reviews them. In addition, the Citrine Wagtail forms a cryptic species complex with this bird; both taxa are paraphyletic in respect to each other.

Currently accepted subspecies
Coloration refers to males except when noted.
M. f. flava - Blue-headed Wagtail.
Blue-gray head with white supercilium and malar stripe in males, much washed with buffish green in females.
Breeding: S Scandinavia to France and C European mountain ranges, E to Urals. Winter: sub-Saharan Africa.
M. f. flavissima - Yellow Wagtail or Yellow-crowned Wagtail.
Yellow-green head with a brighter yellow supercilium. Females markedly paler below than males.
Breeding: Britain and English Channel coast. Winter: Africa.
M. f. thunbergi - Dark-headed Wagtail or Grey-headed Wagtail.
Head dark gray, reaching down to the cheeks, and without white in males; lighter and washed greenish, with vestigial greenish supercilium in females.
Breeding: C and N Scandinavia E to NW Siberia. Winter: E Africa, Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia.
M. f. iberiae - Iberian Yellow Wagtail.
Like flava, but throat white and gray darker, almost black behind eyes.
Breeding: SE France, Iberia, Maghreb from Tunisia to Banc d'Arguin. Winter: The Gambia to CAR.
M. f. cinereocapilla Savi, - Ashy-headed Wagtail.
Like iberiae but supercilium absent or vestigial.
Breeding: Sicily, Sardinia, Italy, Slovenia. Winter: coastal Tunisia and Algeria, Mali to Lake Chad.
M. f. pygmaea - Egyptian Yellow Wagtail.
Similar to cinereocapilla, smaller, less bright.
Nile delta and lower Nile, resident all year.
M. f. feldegg - Black-headed Wagtail
Like thunbergi but black cap in males, females like a dull thunbergi male above, very washed-out dirty yellowish below, throat white.
Breeding: Balkans E to Caspian Sea, S to Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan; also Levant. Winter: C Africa from Nigeria to Uganda and S Sudan.
M. f. lutea - Yellow-headed Wagtail.
Head yellow with green neck in males, females like a somewhat more vivid flava female.
Breeding: Lower Volga to Irtysh River and Lake Zaysan. Winter: Africa and Indian subcontinent.
M. f. beema - Sykes' Wagtail.
Like flava but head lighter gray, ears washed white; sexes often similar.
Breeding: North of lutea, E to Ladakh area. Winter: Indian subcontinent, also E Africa and adjacent Arabia.
M. f. melanogrisea - Turkestan Black-headed Wagtail.
Similar to feldegg, but white malar stripe and sometimes green neck.
Breeding: Volga Delta E around Caspian Sea to N Afghanistan. Winter: Pakistan and NW India to W Nepal, possibly also NE Africa.
M. f. plexa - North Siberian Yellow Wagtail.
Males like thunbergi but ears darker, top of head lighter, vestigial supercilium. Females like dull males.
Breeding: Siberia between Khatanga and Kolyma Rivers. Winter: India, SE Asia.
M. f. tschutschensis - Beringian Yellow Wagtail, Alaska Yellow Wagtail, or Eastern Yellow Wagtail.
Both sexes similar to corresponding flava, but gray of head darker; females often very male-like.
Breeding: around Bering Strait to NW Canada coast. Winter: regions around South China Sea.
M. f. angarensis - South Siberian Yellow Wagtail.
Males like plexa, but supercilium more pronounced.
Breeding: From S Siberia S through W Transbaikalia to N Mongolia. Winter: SE Asia.
M. f. leucocephala - White-headed Yellow Wagtail.
Male like flava, but grey of head very pale, almost white. Female like flava females, but head somewhat darker.
Breeding: NW Mongolia and adjacent PRC and Russia. Winter: probably India.
M. f. taivana - Green-crowned Yellow Wagtail or Kuril Yellow Wagtail.
Like flavissima but daker above, ears much darker, almost black. Sexes similar. Breeding: between ranges of plexa and tschutschensis S via Sakhalin to N Hokkaidō. Winter: Myanmar to Taiwan, S to Wallacea.
M. f. macronyx - Southeast Siberian Yellow Wagtail.
Males like thunbergi but brighter and more strongly marked overall. Female like in thunbergi but no supercilium. Breeding: SE Transbaikalia E to coast, S to Manchuria. Winter: NW of South China Sea.
M. f. simillima - Bering Sea Yellow Wagtail or Short-tailed Grey-headed Wagtail.
Both sexes similar to corresponding flava, but supercilium usually less pronounced. Breeding: Kamchatka and Bering Sea isalnds, possibly to Aleuts. Winter: SE Asia S to N Australia.

Nominate Blue-headed Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail form a narrow hybrid zone in northern France. Birds from this zone vary in appearance, but one type, which resembles nominate Blue-headed Wagtail (except that the blue tones to the head are paler and more mauve and the white of the head is more extensive, particularly on the throat, ear-coverts, and supercilium) is colloquially referred to as Channel Wagtail.

boreocypriensis, eng55, jaycee, gracious, Jamesp, Royaldevon has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Hellio Pekka,

Wonderful capture of this beautiful Dark-headed Yellow Wagtail ine lovely posture. Great compo. TF. Cheers,


  • Great 
  • eng55 Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1256 W: 42 N: 1976] (5892)
  • [2008-06-13 1:56]

Hi Pekka,
Beautiful capture of this yellow wagtail.I liked details,catchlight in eyes and composition are perfect.
Thanks for posting.

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-06-13 1:59]

Hello Pekka,
This is a class picture with superb frame and lighting. Long and interesting note. Ganesh

Moi Pekka
Nice shot of this Yellow Wagtai.
Well done and TFS

  • Great 
  • cloud Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 497 W: 111 N: 1535] (9539)
  • [2008-06-13 7:59]

I encounter this species on the asphalt of the road near my home. Good shot, the grey boards are good BG for this bird.
Regards, Pawel

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-06-13 10:27]

Hi Pekka,

The Yellowhammer is such a nice looking bird - one that we do not have here. I love the very natural pose on the boardwalk. Wonderful colors and details - even the eye sparkles. The workshop showing the male and female is marvelous.


  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-06-13 11:28]

Hello Pekka,
very detailed image of this Yellow Wagtail.
Lovely colours and decent light.
Well composed too.
Excellent DOF.

Well done!


Hello Pekka,
The lighting here is really beautiful with the good pose of the Wagtail!
the image is sharp with nice colour and details
many thanks for the sharing
hv a great weekend, Pekka

  • Great 
  • Jamesp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
  • [2008-06-13 12:58]

Hi Pekka

Lovely shot of this wagtail. Good detail and excellent colours.



Hello Pekka,

A great capture of this attractive wagtail.
The light is highlighting his plummage nicely and creating interesting, long shadows. Superb details and good composition from the diagonal planks.

Kind regards,
Bev :-)

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