Backyard BirdsUncategorized

White-browed Wagtails or Large Pied Wagtails



The White-browed Wagtail also known as the Large Pied Wagtail (Motacilla madaraspatensis) is a medium-sized passerine bird in the wagtail family Motacillidae, which also includes the pipits and longclaws. It is a resident breeder in India. It is also known by its other name of Large Pied Wagtail and the species name is derived from the Indian city of Madras now known as Chennai.

This is the largest species of wagtail and it is one of the few that has adapted well to urban habitats and is often found perched on overhead water storages in residential buildings. It is found in open freshwater wetland habitats.



The White-browed Wagtail is a large wagtail at 21cm. This is a slender bird, with the characteristic long, constantly wagging tail of its genus.

It has black upperparts, head and breast, with a white supercilium and large white wingbar. The rest of the underparts are white.

The female has the black coloration less glossy than in the male.

Juveniles are brown-grey where the adult is black.

Nesting / Breeding

The White-browed Wagtail builds its cup-shaped nest in a hole in a wall or bank and usually lays three to five eggs.


Diet / Feeding

Like other wagtails, this species is insectivorous.



This species appears to belong to the white-bellied black-throated superspecies like the White Wagtail. It is most similar in external appearance to the Japanese Wagtail and Hodgson’s Wagtail, a subspecies of the White Wagtail (M. alba alboides). Similarities in pre-copulatory behaviour with the Japanese Wagtail have been noted. Its song much resembles that of the recently-described Mekong Wagtail, which may or may not be a coincidence. mtDNA cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 sequence data is not able to robustly resolve the relationships of these birds, especially in respect to the Blue-headed Wagtail and its relatives (Voelker, 2002).


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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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