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Motacilla alba

warning Vulnerable
VU (D1)

Contributed: Lior Kislev, Avner Rinot, Yoav Perlman, Asaf Mayrose

The White Wagtail is classified as Vulnerable (VU) because of the small size of its breeding population, estimated at less than 50 mature individuals, combined with a regional adjustment for the fact that the breeding population in Israel is a marginal population at the edge of its global range. In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Near Threatened (NT). The deterioration in the status of the species reflects its reduced population size and breeding range, as well as differences in assessment methods.
VU Current Regional Assessment | NT Previous Regional Assessment | LC World Assessment

Habitats Wetland Thickets, Wetlands with Shallow Banks
Presence In Israel Summer Breeder, Winter Visitor
Nesting In Israel Breeder
Migration Types Resident
Zoography Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Formations Swamps, Riparian, Wetlands, Freshwater Bodies, Mud Plain
Vegetation Formations Wetland Thickets
Vegetation Densities Low, Medium
Nest Locations Ground
Diet Types Invertebrate
Foraging Grounds Ground
Body Sizes Small (up to 500g)
Threat Factors Pesticide Poisoning, Wetland Drainage & Pollution

The White Wagtail is the best known of the four wagtail species seen in Israel. Its contrasting plumage is dominated by hues of white, grey and black. The adult has a black cap and nape, a white forehead and face and a black bib. The back and upperparts are grey, the belly and underparts, white. Body is narrow and slender, with a long tail that it bobs up and down excitedly. It walks vigorously, with jumpy head movements, coordinated with its bobbing tail, occasionally dashing out in pursuit of insects, stopping suddenly and bobbing its tail in long rapid movements. Flight is undulating, and flight call is a characteristic disyllabic note.

A rare breeder in the Galilee and Golan, and a common winter visitor and passage migrant throughout the country. Some 15-25 pairs nest in Israel every year, mainly in the Hula Valley, the Golan Heights, the northern Sea of Galilee and the Western Galilee.

The White Wagtail nests near water, on streambanks, fishponds and reservoirs, in a variety of hidden nooks and crevices. The clutch has 4-7 eggs.

The White Wagtail has been affected by the destruction and pollution of wetland habitats, and possibly also by the intensive use of insecticides in agriculture and water bodies.

No specific conservation measures have been taken for this species to date.

  • פז, ע. 1986. עופות. מתוך אלון, ע. (עורך), החי והצומח של ארץ ישראל. כרך 6. הוצאת משרד הביטחון, ישראל.
Contributed: Lior Kislev, Avner Rinot, Yoav Perlman, Asaf Mayrose

Current Occupancy Map

Distribution maps

The maps presented here provide visual information on the distribution of species in Israel in the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and nesting density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values as calculated from observation records and expert opinions.

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Breeding density values are based mainly on the book Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Occupancy difference 1990-2020

A map that expresses differences in the breeding distribution between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative value - species previously present but is currently absent, positive value - species has not been recorded previously and is currently present, zero - no change in occupancy.

Relative abundance difference 1990-2020

A map that reflects the changes in the relative abundance of the species between the evaluation periods (1980-1990 versus 2010-2020). Negative values - decline in abundance, positive values - increase in abundance, zero - no change in abundance.

Red number

IUCN category

() districts
% of protected sites

Other Species

Anthus similis
Motacilla flava
Anthus campestris
Motacilla citreola