Birds – The Motacillidae Family

Birds – The Motacillidae Family

The Motacillidae Family

The Motacillidae Family

In this article we will see: “The Motacillidae Family”, birds, diverse and captivating, grace our skies with their melodies. From vibrant plumage to impressive flights, they captivate with endless wonders.

Birds – The Motacillidae Family

Brief Background of: The Motacillidae Family

Including pipits and wagtails, the family of Motacillidae comprises small birds with slender forms, slim bodies, and relatively long, thin, and straight beaks. They have high legs with very long toes. Similar to larks, their thumbs have a particularly developed and slightly curved nail. The family is characterized by a slender tail, which is more prominent in pipits and wagtails, where it is elegantly and flexibly wagged.

Appearance and Behaviour

Wagtails display a colorful plumage, combining white, black, yellow, and gray, and they are not afraid of being observed or even living in close proximity to human dwellings. Pipits, on the other hand, are dressed in whitish and pale brown plumage, often mottled, which allows them to blend into their environment and go unnoticed. While wagtails exhibit variable plumage depending on the season, age, and sex, male and female pipits look alike.

Typical of pipits—and these birds owe their name to this characteristic—the songs of this family are generally repetitive and monotonous. They consist of a few brief notes that form the usual stanzas of these birds. Wagtails prefer wet locations, such as the edge of ponds, streamsides, or farm ponds, as well as marshy meadows, flooded fallow lands, and other areas with abundant water.

Pipits, on the other hand, adapt well to both wet and dry areas, northern tundra or arid plateaus, vast open spaces or hedgerow-enclosed meadows, high mountains, and coastal areas. Insects and small worms constitute the staple diet of Motacillidae. Additionally, they consume some spiders and, for certain species, seeds of herbaceous plants, mainly in winter.

The young are fed by both adults, and there are several broods per year. Fearing the arrival of winter, which means famine and certain death for insectivorous birds, pipits and wagtails migrate south before autumn even arrives.

Reproduction

Pipits and wagtails nest in isolated pairs. Pipits nest on the ground, under a clod of peat or heather, sheltered by a stone, tuft of grass, or in a crevice of a rock. Wagtails nest in various locations, both in the wilderness and human habitation, depending on the species. Generally, an open crevice or the possibility of a roof determines the choice of nest site, which can be buried under grass or hidden under a gutter. The clutch consists of 2 to 6 eggs with a whitish, gray, brown, purple, or greenish background, finely speckled to varying degrees.

The young are fed by both adults, and there are several broods per year. Fearing the arrival of winter, which means famine and certain death for insectivorous birds, pipits and wagtails migrate south before autumn even arrives.

Migration of: The Motacillidae Family

While some stop along the Mediterranean coast, others reach North Africa. Some even cross the Sahara, reaching tropical Africa and the southern part of the continent. 

Distribution

With 48 species, including a single wagtail in America, most of the Motacillidae family inhabits the Old World. They are absent from polar regions and are also missing in New Zealand and the islands of Oceania.

Twelve species, including eight pipits, breed in Europe.

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A final word

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