Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)

Citrine Wagtail

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Motacillidae | [latin] Motacilla citreola | [UK] Citrine Wagtail | [FR] Bergeronnette citrine | [DE] Zitronenstelze | [ES] Lavandera cetrina | [NL] Citroenkwikstaart


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Motacilla citreola EU widespread OR
Motacilla citreola calcarata
Motacilla citreola citreola
Motacilla citreola werae

Physical charateristics

Most constant marks are slate-grey upperparts, and striking double white wing-bar and white fringes to tertials.
Breeding male shows fully yellow head and underparts, contrast of yellow head with black neck-shawl diagnostic. Breeding female suggests dusky-backed Yellow Wagtail, and juvenile and 1st winter birds recall pale White Wagtail. Sexes dissimilar.

Listen to the sound of Citrine Wagtail

[audio: Wagtail.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 24 cm wingspan max.: 28 cm
size min.: 15 cm size max.: 17 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 14 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : widespread


Breeds from arctic and subarctic through boreal and temperate dry continental zones, and extralimitally to subtropics, ranging from sea-level to upper level of meadow vegetation at above 4500 m.
In tundra belt, inhabits osier thickets on coast and on islands in large river deltas, perching often on bushes. Also by lakes on marshy-shrubby tundra, on wet sections of mountain tundra, and among willow bushes on tussocky mountain meadows.
In south in upper part of forest belt and in mountains, often in very damp places, also in river valleys in peaty hummocky bogs or marshy meadows covered with sparse low shrubs.


A successful breeding cycle lasts about 1 month and included: 3-4 days of nest building, 1-2 days of a break, 4-6 days of egg laying, 11-12 days of incubation, and 10-13 days of parental care of chicks in the nest. Females started to lay eggs at the beginning of May. The most common clutch-size was 5 eggs. Nests were always on the ground and were situated in tufts or in thick vegetation. Most entrances faced south-east. Both parents participated similarly in feeding the chicks. The average frequency of feeding increased from about 5 per hour on the day of hatching to more than 20 per hour in the last days in the nest. During the first few days the female stayed at the nest longer than the male. After 6 days, average duration of a visit in the nest for both parents shortened to several seconds.

Feeding habits

Diet bosed on invertebrates, often aquatic. Usually forages in or near wet habitat. Three foraging techniques:
1) Picks items from ground or water surface while standing or walking on ground or wading in shallow water even up to belly, long legs being well adapted to this, and walk on floating leaves of water plants. Hunts prey flushed by grazing animals, bird walking around and between legs of cattle.
2) Immersion, in a development of picking, bird plunges head into water to catch insect larvae.
Flycatching, snatches insects flying past with brief upward flutter.


This species has an extremely 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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not 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.

Motacilla citreola is a summer visitor to northern Russia and parts of central and
eastern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range.
Its European breeding population is large (>210,000 pairs), and was stable between
1970-1990. Although the trend of the stronghold population in Russia during 1990-
2000 was unknown, the species increased or was stable across the rest of its European
range, and there was no evidence to suggest that its status deteriorated significantly.

Citrine Wagtail status Least Concern


Migratory, wintering mainly in India and south-east Asia. Rather little information on timing of movements. Autumn departure from Russia starts mainly in early September. Northern birds arrive India in September and depart mostly March-April. Occurrence in Middle East evidently peripheral to main movement: scarce winter visitor and passage migrant, October-March.
Most vagrants to Britain occur September-November with highest numbers on Fair Isle (Scotland). Spring records in Europe have increased in recent years, in line with range expansion.

Distribution map

Citrine Wagtail distribution range map

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