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Motacilla alba

warning Vulnerable
VU (D1)

Contributed: Lior Kislev, Avner Rinot, Yoav Perlman, Asaf Mayrose
Update Time: Jan. 1, 2011, 7:39 a.m.

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 Global Assessment

Habitats Wetland Thickets, Wetlands with Shallow Banks
Presence In Israel Winter Visitor, Summer
Breeding In Israel Breeder
Migration Types Resident
Zoographical Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Types Wetlands, Fresh Water, Riparian, Marsh, Mud Plain
Vegetation Types Marsh and Riparian
Vegetation Densities Medium, Low
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

Current occupancy map by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
0 0 0 0 0

Distribution maps

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

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values in the current decade as determined from experts' opinion and observations from databases.

Relative Abundance 2010-2020 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
8 12 12 21 19

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Density values based primarily on the book The Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Relative Abundance 1980-1990 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
5 14 14 17 22

Occupancy 1990-2020

The map shows differences in the species breeding distribution between the 1980's breeding map and the current weighted breeding evaluation. Negative value - species previously bred in the grid and is not presently breeding; positive value - species has not previously bred in the grid and is currently breeding.

Occupancy 1990-2020
Data Missing No Change Occupancy Increase Occupancy Decrease
6 35 1 9

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020

The map shows the changes in the relative abundance of a species in each of the distribution grids between the breeding map of the 1980s and the weighted current breeding evaluation. Negative values - decline in abundance; positive values - increase in abundance; zero - no change in abundance.

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020
80 to 100 50 20 to 30 No Change 30- to 20- 50- 100- to 80- Data Missing
0 4 2 22 12 14 11 16

Red number
IUCN category
Threat Definition according to the red book
() districts
% of protected sites

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