Family Pipits and Wagtails (Motacillidae)

Least Concern

White-browed Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis)


French: Bergeronnette indienne German: Weißbrauenstelze Spanish: Lavandera india

Motacilla maderaspatensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Madras, Tamil Nadu, India


Formerly treated as a race of M. alba. Was thought to be closely related to latter as well as M. grandis, M. samveasnae and M. aguimp, but recent analyses of mitochondrial DNA suggest that last species is more distantly related to this group. Birds from Punjab region, described as race kangrae, usually considered indistinguishable. Monotypic.


N Pakistan E in Himalayan foothills to Bhutan and Bangladesh, probably to Arunachal Pradesh, and S through most of peninsular India; recorded in NE Afghanistan#R. Rare winter visitor to Sri Lanka.

Descriptive notes

21–24 cm; 30–36 g. Rather large wagtail. Male has all-black head except for broad white supercilium from bill to rear of ear-coverts, very thin white crescent... read more


Song a clear, high-pitched jumble of loud pleasant whistling notes; call a loud “chiz-zit... read more


Watercourses. Favours streams and rivers, especially smooth-flowing rivers with rocks and stony... read more

Food and feeding

Diet consists of insects, especially small coleopterans (e.g. Tridactylinae), grasshoppers (Orthoptera) and dragonflies (Odonata), also... read more


Laying Mar–Jun, rarely Sept–Oct, in N, and Dec–Jun in S, coinciding with low water levels in dry season. Monogamous;... read more


Mainly resident, living in pairs throughout year. Descends from highest elevations to lower levels... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Fairly common to locally common, and widespread; scarce in Bangladesh. Probably occurs in NE India (Arunachal Pradesh, N Assam), but status there... read more

Recommended citation

Tyler, S. (2020). White-browed Wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis). 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 29 February 2020).