Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)


French: Bergeronnette citrine German: Zitronenstelze Spanish: Lavandera cetrina

Motacilla citreola


, 1776,



Recent research, using mitochondrial DNA, suggests that W race werae may represent a separate species, closer to SE Asian races of M. flava and distinct from nominate E race, which appears closer to NE races of latter#R#R; others, however, consider werae to be morphologically and vocally inseparable from nominate#R, and nuclear DNA does not support the split#R. Further study needed. Races intergrade. Proposed race quassitrix (described from S Russian Altai) considered indistinguishable from nominate, and sindzianicus (N Xinjiang, in NW China) from werae; weigoldi (from N Sichuan, in C China) synonymized with calcarata. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. c. citreola Pallas, 1776 – Northern Citrine Wagtail – N Europe (Finland, N Russia) E to C Siberia, Transbaikalia, Mongolia and NE China; winters mainly in Indian Subcontinent, also SE Asia.
  • M. c. werae (Buturlin, 1907) – E Europe (expanding W and now regular breeder in Baltic Republics, N Poland, Belarus and Ukraine) E to Russian Altai, N & E Kazakhstan and NW China (NW Xinjiang) and, probably this race, in C & E Turkey#R, breeding also recorded in Armenia#R and Syria#R; winters in Indian Subcontinent and SE Asia.
  • M. c. calcarata Hodgson, 1836 – Southern Citrine Wagtail – E Iran, Afghanistan, and C Asian mountains from Tien Shan E to C China (E to C Gansu and Sichuan) and S to N Himalayas; winters in lowlands from S Afghanistan E to Myanmar.
  • Descriptive notes

    16·5–20 cm; 18–25 g. Male nominate race in breeding plumage has bright yellow head and underparts, black lower hindneck and upper mantle, black extending... read more


    Song, from bushtop or in flight, 2–4 simple notes, first note often sharper, repeated in... read more


    Favours marshes, edges of lakes, willow (Salix) thickets and wet rough grassland in tundra... read more

    Food and feeding

    Food includes wide variety of invertebrates, often aquatic, and their larvae; recorded items include, among others, nymphs and adults of... read more


    Late Apr–Jun, later in N, and May–Aug in SE (calcarata); often two broods. Monogamous; territorial, but may nest semi-... read more


    Migratory. Winters in Indian Subcontinent (except S & E) and in SE Asia, smaller numbers also S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Very common in tundra belt of N Russia, less common farther S; estimated total population in European Russia over 300,000 pairs.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Tyler, S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 February 2020).