Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Birds » Pipits and Wagtails: Motacillidae - Physical Characteristics, Geographic Range, Behavior And Reproduction, Pipits, Wagtails, Longclaws, And People - HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS

Pipits and Wagtails: Motacillidae - Behavior And Reproduction

nest birds species longclaws

Pipit, longclaw, and wagtail species are very territorial, and males aggressively defend their breeding areas. Some even attack their reflections in the hubcaps of cars and windows. Some of the species are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), having only one mate. They perform courtship displays, behaviors that lead to mating. Some species' displays include presenting females with nesting material or food, while others, especially pipits, stage spectacular aerial flights to attract mates and defend their territory.

This family of birds typically builds cup-shaped nests on the ground in a depression or shallow, scraped-out area. Their neatly formed nests are usually made of grass, stems, and other plant parts and lined with hair, feathers, and other soft materials. The female most often constructs the nest, but males are often in attendance and sometimes help. Pipits and wagtails generally nest in the grass, although wagtails also nest in nooks and cracks in rocks, stream banks, cliffs, and walls, or under bridges and in hollow tree branches and roots. Longclaws also tend to nest in the grass, but prefer to hide in or at the base of a tussock, a clump of grass, or among leafy plants.

Most wagtails and pipits breed from April to August and may have two or three broods, group of chicks that hatch at the same time, per breeding season. Longclaws breed during or shortly after the rainy season. Female longclaws lay a clutch of two to five green, pale blue, or pink eggs. Wagtails lay three to eight eggs and pipits lay two to nine, depending on latitude and environment. Usually the female incubates, sits on, the eggs alone, but sometimes the male helps. Both parents care for the fledglings, young birds that have recently grown the feathers needed for flight, which leave the nest after ten to seventeen days.

Many species migrate in flocks and gather into large groups during the nonbreeding season. Wagtails roost together in reed beds and bush- and scrub-vegetated areas. They will vigorously defend good feeding areas from intruders with a display of head-bobbing and jumping into the air. Wagtails may be identified by the characteristic wagging motion of their longish tails. Pipits also do something similar with their tails, but, with a few exceptions, it is not as noticeable. Both species can run very quickly and prefer to crouch in short vegetation to escape the notice of predators, animals that hunt them for food. They are strong fliers, and usually have an undulating, smooth wave-like, flight pattern. The flight of longclaws, on the other hand, is jerky because of their habit of alternating periods of gliding and flapping. Both pipits and longclaws use song-flights as part of their territorial and mating behaviors; wagtails more often sing their simple, melodious songs from the ground or a perch.


Almost none of the birds in the Motacillidae family like to perch in trees. They would rather stay on the ground, where they feed and nest, and are experts at evading danger by running swiftly to thick vegetation or rocky outcrops.

When foraging, searching for food, this family of birds uses numerous techniques, including following the plow as a field is plowed, walking while picking from the ground or water surface, darting after insects, putting their heads underwater, flying or hovering to catch winged prey, and poking into vegetation and leaf litter.

Pipits and Wagtails: Motacillidae - Pipits, Wagtails, Longclaws, And People [next] [back] Pipits and Wagtails: Motacillidae - Geographic Range

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