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White Wagtail

Motacilla alba


Tom Benson
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eBird Checklist S41326577
Prado Regional Park
San Bernardino, California, United States
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Latitude and Longitude 33.9464, -117.6506 Map



Observation details

Continuing at spillway. Was present almost continuously from 9 AM until 11 AM when it flew off well to the southwest and we left. This bird was a relatively small passerine, similar in size to an American Pipit (one present for comparison) but with a noticeably longer tail. The bird was quite active during the period of observation, walking along the concrete spillway or in very shallow water. At times it would stand in place, while at other times it would run quite quickly (presumably in pursuit of prey). On a few occasions, it made quick jumps/flights up to a meter high, with much maneuvering, suggesting that it was pursuing flying prey items. I recall seeing it fly at length on two occasions, once shortly after my arrival and again at about 11 AM as it flew far off to the south or southwest and left the area. Both times it flew relatively high with a distinct undulating flight. It also made several shorter flights along the spillway, at which time it frequently called, giving a high-pitched, single-note “chick”. As would be expected, this bird wagged its tail consistently. It generally wagged it rather slowly as it was standing or walking, but immediately on landing after a short flight it seemed to wag its tail rather rapidly for several seconds before it resumed its normal foraging behavior. Overall this bird’s plumage was gray, white, and black. The upper parts, from the crown to the rump, were uniformly light to medium gray that blended into the dark gray of the upper tail coverts, with no obvious patterning. The wings and tail were primarily blackish, but with broad white wing bars at the tips of the median and greater secondary coverts, white edges to the tertials, and white outer tail feathers. The under parts were generally white, including the face and forehead. There was a contrasting black eyeline, creating a white supercilium. Additionally, there was a narrow black forecollar on either side of the breast, with a somewhat circular black bib in the middle of the breast. It gave me the impression of a necklace with an exceedingly large pendant hanging from it. The legs and feet were black, the bill was relatively short and slender, and was also black except for a yellowish base to the lower mandible, and the irides were dark. Based on the criteria set forth in Sibley and Howell (1998), this appears to be an immature of the subspecies M. a. ocularis. The yellowish base to the lower mandible and the grayish rump not contrasting with the back age it as an immature, and the gray crown lacking black, gray rump, lack of white edges to the base of the secondaries (visible in flight photos), and distinct wing bars identify it as M. a. ocularis (versus M. a. lugens).

Technical Information

Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Lens model
EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Focal length
400 mm
Shutter speed
1/400 sec
Flash did not fire, auto
Original file size
2271 x 1590

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