Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)


French: Bergeronnette de forêt German: Baumstelze Spanish: Lavandera forestal

Motacilla indica

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Relationships uncertain; sometimes placed in genus Motacilla. Monotypic.


Russian Far East (S Ussuriland) S to SE China (S to SW Sichuan, N Guizhou and N Fujian) and, rare, S Japan (SW Honshu, NW Kyushu); doubtful report of occasional breeding in NE India (Cachar Hills, in Assam); winters in S & SE Asia, S to SW India, Sri Lanka and Greater Sundas.

Descriptive notes

16–18 cm; 14–17 g. Small motacillid with distinctive wing and breast patterns. Adult has prominent, long, whitish super­cilium, occasionally dark moustachial... read more


Song a disyllabic “tsi-fee” repeated 4–5 times; call a metallic “pink... read more


Forest, secondary growth and open woodland, to 1800 m. Wide variety of forests, both deciduous and... read more

Food and feeding

Food consists of small invertebrates, such as ants (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), small grasshoppers (Orthoptera), butterflies (... read more


Breeds mainly Apr–Jun. Monogamous; territorial. Nest built by female, accompanied by male, a compact firm cup of twigs, leaves, fine... read more


Migratory. Winters in India (mainly SW & NE), Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and from Myanmar and S... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Locally common, both in breeding and in non-breeding areas. First bred in Japan in early 1970s; previously only very rare migrant. Only occasional... read more

Recommended citation

Tyler, S. (2020). Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus). 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 28 February 2020).