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Motacillidae

Longclaw
Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis ©Trevor Hardaker Website

The Motacillidae are a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. There are around 66 species in 7 genera and they include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. The longclaws are entirely restricted to the Afrotropics, and the wagtails are predominantly found in Europe, Africa and Asia, with two species migrating and breeding in Alaska. The pipits have the most cosmopolitan distribution, being found across mostly in the Old World but occurring also in the Americas and oceanic islands such as New Zealand and the Falklands. Two African species, the Yellow-breasted Pipit and Sharpe's Longclaw are sometimes placed in a separate genus, Hemimacronyx, which is closely related to the longclaws.

Wagtails, pipits, and longclaws are slender, small to medium-sized passerines, ranging from 14 to 17 centimetres in length, with short necks and long tails. They have long, pale legs with long toes and claws, particularly the hind toe which can be up to 4cm in length in some longclaws. There is no sexual dimorphism in size. Overall the robust longclaws are larger than the pipits and wagtails. Longclaws can weigh as much as 64g, whereas the weight range for pipits and wagtails is 15g - 31 g. The plumage of most pipits is dull brown and reminiscent of the larks, although some species have brighter plumages, particularly the Golden Pipit of north-east Africa. The adult male longclaws have brightly coloured undersides. The wagtails often have striking plumage, including grey, black, white, and yellow.

Most motacillids are ground-feeding insectivores of slightly open country. They occupy almost all available habitats, from the shore to high mountains. Wagtails prefer wetter habitats to most of the pipits. A few species use forests, including the Forest Wagtail, and other species use forested mountain streams, such as the Grey Wagtail or the Mountain Wagtail.

They take a wide range of invertebrate prey, especially insects, but also including spiders, worms, and small aquatic molluscs and arthropods. All species seem to be fairly catholic in their diet, and the most commonly taken prey for any particular species or population usually reflects local availability.

With the exception of the Forest Wagtail, they nest on the ground, laying up to six speckled eggs.

According to the IOC there are 66 species of wagtails, longclaws and pipits in just seven genera of the family Motacillidae; they are:

Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus

Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Cape Wagtail Motacilla capensis
Madagascan Wagtail Motacilla flaviventris
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Mountain Wagtail Motacilla clara
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp
Mekong Wagtail Motacilla samveasnae
Japanese Wagtail Motacilla grandis
White-browed Wagtail Motacilla maderaspatensis

Golden Pipit Tmetothylacus tenellus

Sharpe's Longclaw Macronyx sharpei
Abyssinian Longclaw Macronyx flavicollis
Fülleborn's Longclaw Macronyx fuelleborni
Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis
Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus
Pangani Longclaw Macronyx aurantiigula
Rosy-throated Longclaw Macronyx ameliae
Grimwood's Longclaw Macronyx grimwoodi

Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi
Paddyfield Pipit Anthus rufulus
Australian Pipit Anthus australis
New Zealand Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
African Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus
Mountain Pipit Anthus hoeschi
Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis
Wood Pipit Anthus nyassae
Buffy Pipit Anthus vaalensis
Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys
Long-legged Pipit Anthus pallidiventris
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Pechora Pipit Anthus gustavi
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
Eurasian Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus
Nilgiri Pipit Anthus nilghiriensis
Upland Pipit Anthus sylvanus
Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotii
Striped Pipit Anthus lineiventris
African Rock Pipit Anthus crenatus
Short-tailed Pipit Anthus brachyurus
Bushveld Pipit Anthus caffer
Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis
Malindi Pipit Anthus melindae
Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris
Alpine Pipit Anthus gutturalis
Sprague's Pipit Anthus spragueii
Yellowish Pipit Anthus lutescens
Short-billed Pipit Anthus furcatus
Pampas Pipit Anthus chacoensis
Correndera Pipit Anthus correndera
South Georgia Pipit Anthus antarcticus
Ochre-breasted Pipit Anthus nattereri
Hellmayr's Pipit Anthus hellmayri
Paramo Pipit Anthus bogotensis

Madanga Madanga ruficollis

Sao Tome Shorttail Amaurocichla bocagii

Family Links

Pipits & Wagtails Motacillidae

Family Account

Fact index…

Pipits & Wagtails Motacillidae

IBC Family Account

Family account…

Pipits & Wagtails Motacillidae

BTO Family Account

Wagtails and pipits are small slender birds of open country, characterised by an elongated body, relatively long legs and long toes - often with extended hindclaws. They forage largely on the ground (many species in association with livestock) on small insects. All species use a song-flight to advertise their territories and court mates; male pipits ascending to 100m or more in the air before 'parachuting' back down to earth - singing loudly all the while. Most species occurring in Europe and Asia are migratory to some extent.

Pipits & Wagtails Motacillidae

Cornell Species Account

Limited to American species

Pipits & Wagtails Motacillidae

HBW Family Account

Annotated species list

Pipits & Wagtails Motacillidae

Family Account

The Motacillidae are a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. There are around 65 species in 6 genera and they include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits.

Species Links

African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile…

African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp

IBC Species Account

IBC species profile...

African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

American Pipit Anthus rubsecens

Species Account

While this photograph of an American Pipit appears somewhat dark (perhaps due to under-exposure?); a number of features rule out Siberian Pipit…

Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis

Species Account

The Cape longclaw or orange-throated longclaw (Macronyx capensis) is a passerine bird in the family Motacillidae, which comprises the longclaws, pipits and wagtails.

Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis

HBW Species Account

Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis

IUCN Species Status

This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion.

Cape Longclaw Macronyx capensis

BirdLife Species Account

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni

Species Account

The olive-backed pipit (Anthus hodgsoni) is a small passerine bird of the pipit (Anthus) genus, which breeds across South, north Central and East Asia, as well as in the northeast of European Russia.

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Anthus trivialis hodgsoni Richmond, 1907, Bengal, India. Appears to be very closely related to A. trivialis. Races intergrade in N Japan. Proposed race inopinatus (Sakhalin) indistinguishable from yunnanensis; berezowskii, described from Gansu (C China), inseparable from nominate. Two subspecies recognized.

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni

BirdLife Species Account

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba

RSPB Species Account

RSPC species account…

Sao Tome Shorttail Amaurocichla bocagii

Species Account

The São Tomé shorttail (Amaurocichla bocagei), also known as Bocage's longbill, is a species of passerine bird in the superfamily Passeroidea.

Sao Tome Shorttail Amaurocichla bocagii

BirdLife Species Account

Sao Tome Shorttail Amaurocichla bocagii

IUCN Species Status

Sao Tome Shorttail Amaurocichla bocagii

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species account…

Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus

IBC Species Account

IBC species account...

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 66

Useful Reading

Pipits & Wagtails ? of Europe, Asia & North America

by Per Alstr?m and Krister Mild ? Illustrated by Per Alst?m and Bill Zetterstr?m. Helm Identification Guides April 2003 ?48 See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0713658347

Buy this book from NHBS.com