Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tschutschensis)


French: Bergeronnette de Béringie German: Tschuktschenstelze Spanish: Lavandera de Chukotka

Motacilla tschutschensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

coast of Chukotskiy Peninsula


Until recently considered conspecific with M. flava, but remarkably distinct genetically#R#R#R, and (although showing no constant diagnostic plumage characters) differs in its longer hind-claw#R (2); distinctive song, with faster pace (2), higher number of notes (3) and slightly higher minimum frequency (ns[2]); and subtle flight-call differences#R (ns[1]). Some studies, using mitochondrial DNA, have suggested that present species might be separated into at least two—plexa and tschutschensis, and taivana plus macronyx—with first two closest to E nominate form of M. citreola and latter two closest to W race (M. c. werae). Race plexa judged too indistinct from race thunbergi of M. flava to warrant recognition#R, but study in W Siberia (C Russia), near where wagtails genetically identified as plexa were collected, found that birds morphologically like thunbergi (i.e. arguably plexa and therefore presumably with longer claws than thunbergi) occupied bogs while beema co-occurred in floodplain grassland#R, suggesting two species involved, consistent with arrangement here. Race alascensis (W Alaska) synonymized with nominate; race simillima possibly better included in nominate, and angarensis in latter or in macronyx. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. t. plexa (Thayer & Bangs, 1914) – N Siberia (R Khatanga E to R Kolyma); winters SE Asia, perhaps W to India.
  • M. t. tschutschensis J. F. Gmelin, 1789 – Eastern Yellow Wagtail – NE Siberia and extreme NW North America (N & W Alaska, extreme NW Canada); winters mainly SE Asia (E to Philippines, S to Indonesia).
  • M. t. simillima E. J. O. Hartert, 1905 – Kamchatka, N Kurils and Commander Is, and possibly Pribilofs and Aleutian Is; winters SE Asia and Philippines S to Sundas and Wallacea, and N Australia.
  • M. t. angarensis (Sushkin, 1925) – S Siberia and W Transbaikalia S to N Mongolia; winters SE Asia (Myanmar and Thailand E to SE China).
  • M. t. macronyx (Stresemann, 1920) – Mongolian Yellow Wagtail – SE Transbaikalia E to Amurland and Ussuriland, S to NE Mongolia and NC & NE China; winters SE Asia S to Malay Peninsula and SE China.
  • M. t. taivana (Swinhoe, 1863) – Green-headed Wagtail – SE Siberia, Amurland, Sakhalin and N Japan (N Hokkaido); winters Myanmar, S China and Taiwan S to Greater Sundas, Philippines and Wallacea.
  • Descriptive notes

    16·5 cm; c. 11–21 g, varying greatly with season and locality. Male nominate race breeding has darkish blue-grey to mid-grey forehead to nape and hindneck, long white... read more


    Song, given from perch or in flight, a short fast twittering of 3–6 notes, faster than that of ... read more


    Breeds in soggy or wet habitats, especially wet meadows and grassy swamplands but also along... read more

    Food and feeding

    Takes wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, along with some seeds and other plant material. Dietary details not known to... read more


    Season Apr–Aug, varying with latitude, e.g. clutches only initiated during first three weeks of Jun in Alaska, on average four days after... read more


    Wholly migratory. All populations spend non-breeding period in SE Asia and variously beyond,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common to locally common in much of breeding range; locally common in most of non-breeding range. Although no meaningful... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tschutschensis). 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 10 April 2020).