5 Oct 2022

Grey Wagtail

It's not often I get a 'ringing tick' these days. I've been lucky enough to ring a large number of species both in the UK and abroad during my ringing career stretching back 5 decades! Grey Wagtail is one of those commoner species that has eluded me though. I've never even seen one in the hand being ringed by someone else. 

They're usually a spring or autumn passage migrant around our house and we rarely get a bird that lingers. We may occasionally see a mid-winter bird that lingers for a few days on a flooded field or puddled field gateway but not often down in the garden.

My luck changed recently when I actually caught one in the garden! 

What a beautiful looking bird and the name 'Grey Wagtail' certainly doesn't do it justice. Grey Wagtails can be difficult to age and sex but this one was sexed as a male on wing length as it was outside the overlap range for a female. 

The Demongin guide gives the wing length for males as between 81 & 92 mm with females between 80 & 85 mm. This bird had a wing of 88 mm. Females generally show some buff colouration in the malar stripe as well but this is only a supporting feature and isn't always the case.

Post juvenile moult is limited to all of the median and lesser coverts but only a few inner greater coverts and caution must be shown here as even in adults the inner greater coverts are slightly different in colour than the outer ones giving the false impression of a moult limit. 

My bird had no contrast between the dark centres of the lesser / median coverts and greater coverts so I aged it as a Euring 4 meaning it was an adult born at least prior to this year. It had undergone a full post breeding moult and the plumage was very fresh with no wear.

Its always nice to ring a new species and learn something about them - especially so when its in in your own garden! 

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