pied wagtail defined in 1930 yearpied wagtail - Pied Wagtail;
pied wagtail - Summer plumage variegated with white and black; back and scapulars, chin, throat, and neck black; a small portion of the side of the neck white. Winter plumage: back and scapulars ash-grey; chin and throat white, with a black, but not entirely isolated, gorget. Length, seven and a half inches.
The pied wagtail is probably not more abundant in this country than the yellow wagtail, but is far better known, being a more generally diffused species, often seen in the neighbourhood of houses where the yellow wagtail never comes. And if there be a pied wagtail anywhere within range of sight, it is sure to be seen and recognised, for in its black-and-white plumage it is the most conspicuous small bird in this country, not excepting the kingfisher, snow-bunting and blackbird. When tripping about a smooth lawn he looks double his real size, and reminds one of a magpie in a field or an oyster-catcher on a wide stretch of level sand.
The pied wagtail is found in this country all the year round, but many birds (probably the large majority) migrate annually. Knox, in his 'Ornithological Rambles in Sussex,' says that they arrive on she Sussex coast about the middle of March, the old males first, the females and the males of the previous year a few days later. They are sometimes seen in large numbers near the coast, resting after their voyage before proceeding inland. The return migration takes place at the end of August or early in September.
Meadows and pasture-lands in the neighbourhood of a running stream are favourite resorts of the wagtail, and it is fond of attending cattle for the sake of the numbers of insects driven from their shelter in the grass by the grazing animals.
The pied wagtail is not so lively, quick, and graceful as the yellow and the grey species; but if you watch him for any length of time he, too, gives you the idea of a creature that never continues in the same mind for a minute at a time, but acts according to the impulse of the moment, and is as unstable as a ball of thistledown. He runs, then stands, and shakes his tail; for two or three moments he searches for food; then chases an insect, and is still again, waiting for a new impulse to move him: - suddenly he flies away, not straight, as if with an object in- view, but with a curving, dipping, erratic flight, governed seemingly by no will; and just as suddenly alighting again, when he is once more seen standing still and shaking his tail. The call-note, a sharp chirp of two syllables, is emitted once or twice during flight. The song is a loud, hurried warble, uttered on the wing as the bird hovers at a moderate height from the ground. But the pied wagtail has another way of singing, especially in early spring: this is a warble so low that at the distance of fifteen yards it is just audible, and is sometimes uttered continuously for two or three minutes at a stretch.
The nest is made, as a rule, in a hollow or cavity in the ground, Dr in a crevice or hole in a bank or rock, or under a stone, or at the roots of a furze-bush. It is built of fine dry grass, moss, and various other materials, and lined with hair and feathers. The eggs are four or five, pale bluish in tint, and spotted with greyish brown.
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