Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

Japanese Wagtail (Motacilla grandis)


French: Bergeronnette du Japon German: Japanstelze Spanish: Lavandera japonesa
Other common names: Japanese Pied Wagtail

Motacilla grandis


, 1885,



Formerly treated as conspecific with M. alba, even though the two breed sympatrically in Japan; nevertheless, recent genetic evidence indicates present species is nested in latter, albeit with low support#R. Both species thought to be closely related to M. maderaspatensis, M. samveasnae and M. aguimp, although recent analyses of mitochondrial DNA suggest that last species is more distantly related to this group. Monotypic.


Japan (Hokkaido to Kyushu, including Sado I and Oki Is) and S Korea#R; non-breeding visitor to Izu Is and Ryukyu Is, occasionally E China and Taiwan.

Descriptive notes

21–23 cm. Male has forehead, supercilium, chin and very thin white crescent below eye white; rest of head, down to breast, and upperparts black; primaries mostly white... read more


Song, by both sexes (male in most months, female mainly Feb), comprises basic notes and short... read more


Riparian habitats, dry riverbeds and rice fields, along large rivers with gravelly shores; also... read more

Food and feeding

Arthropods. In urban areas, prey largely flies (Diptera), especially craneflies (Tipulidae), forming 88% of items fed to chicks; spiders (... read more


Laying Mar–Jul; 2–3 broods. Monogamous, occasional bigyny recorded; normally solitary, and territorial, aggressive towards... read more


N populations (N Hokkaido) appear to move S & W in autumn; non-breeding visitor to Ryukyu Is,... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Common and widespread in S Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku, and on Sado I (off W Honshu). Less common in N & C Hokkaido, where largely... read more

Recommended citation

Tyler, S. (2019). Japanese Wagtail (Motacilla grandis). 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 12 December 2019).