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Motacilla flava

warning Vulnerable
VU (D1)

Contributed: Avner Rinot, Zev Labinger, Yoav Perlman, Lior Kislev, Ezra Hadad

The Western Yellow Wagtail is classified as Vulnerable (VU) because of the small size of its breeding population in Israel, 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 the global range of the species. In the previous edition of the Red Book (2002), it was classified as Critically Endangered (CR). The improved status does not reflect an actual improvement in its population and range, but rather differences in assessment methods between the editions.
VU Current Regional Assessment | CR Previous Regional Assessment | LC World Assessment

Habitats Wetland Thickets, Wetlands with Shallow Banks
Presence In Israel Summer Breeder, Migrant
Nesting In Israel Breeder
Migration Types Long Range
Zoography Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Formations Swamps, Wetlands, Freshwater Bodies
Vegetation Formations Wetland Thickets
Vegetation Densities Low, Medium
Nest Locations Ground, Wetland Thickets
Diet Types Invertebrate
Foraging Grounds Ground
Body Sizes Small (up to 500g)
Threat Factors Habitat Fragmentation, Wetland Drainage & Pollution

The Western Yellow Wagtail is a small delicate yellow-green-brown songbird, with a slender elongated body, a long tail and a thin bill it uses to catch small insects. The male has bright yellow underparts, a brown-green back and distinct head markings (that vary between the many subspecies) and the female is paler and more uniformly colored. It spends most of its time walking or running on the ground, which is where it finds most of its food. The subspecies breeding in Israel is M. f. feldegg.

The Western Yellow Wagtail is an extremely rare summer breeder in the Hula Valley, northern Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley. Breeding in most areas is sporadic and not continuous. It was first discovered nesting in Israel in 1951, when 8 pairs were seen in the Nahal Enan meadow in the Hula Valley (Zahavi 1957). The drainage of the Hula and other marshes had a negative impact on the wagtails. Some recuperation was recorded in the early 1980s, when the number of breeding pairs in the Hula Reserve reached 15 (Gorney 1983) and other pairs were seen in the summer in northern Sea of Galilee, the Bet She’an Valley, the Carmel Coast, the Sorek Valley and the Be’er Sheva Valley (Shirihai 1996). In recent years, the number of breeding pairs in the Hula decreased with an estimated 10 pairs currently breeding in Israel.

The Western Yellow Wagtail nests on streambanks with low grassy vegetation in Mediterranean climates. It nests in low thickets on the ground and at the edges of freshwater bodies. When migrating it stops at varied habitats, including irrigated fields, pastures and grassy patches in the desert.

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

The Western Yellow Wagtail should be studied and monitored – a survey of potential nesting sites should be conducted to obtain a more accurate assessment of the population and the factors affecting it. Habitats should be rehabilitated and wetlands in the Hula and Bet Tsayda valleys and other similar sites should be preserved and rehabilitated.

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

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

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Anthus similis
Anthus campestris
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