White Wagtail Motacilla alba


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
Rich et al. (2004) estimated the global population to number 200,000 individuals. In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 16,900,000-27,600,000 pairs, which equates to 33,900,000-55,200,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.25% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 135,000,000-221,000,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
In Europe the overall trend for 1980-2013 was stable (EBCC 2015).


This species inhabits a very wide variety of non-forested wet and dry habitats, including seashores, rocky or sandy upland rivers and slow-moving lowland rivers, lakeshores, farmland, gardens, parks, short grassland such as that found in vicinity of factories in towns and cities. It is also often found in towns and villages. It mostly breeds from early April to August, starting later in the north. It is monogamous and both sexes build the nest which is a rough cup of twigs, grass stems, leaves, rootlets and mosses, lined with hair, wool or feathers and placed in a hole or crevice in a riverbank, wall or bridge. It also often nests in buildings or even machinery. Clutches are three to eight eggs. It feeds on a wide range of small terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, as well as fish fry, crumbs and other household scraps. Most populations are regular long-distance migrants, others are partial migrants or largely resident. In western and southern Europe some populations of the nominate race and of yarrellii are resident but northern populations of the latter are partial migrants (Tyler 2016).


Climate change is thought to affect the timing of migration for this species (Ahas and Aasa 2006, Sokolov and Gordienko 2008, Kullberg et al. 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Further research into the effects of climate change on this species should be undertaken.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A., Temple, H., Ashpole, J

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Motacilla alba. Downloaded from on 20/10/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/10/2019.