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Mountain wagtail

Motacilla clara

Photo by Morten Nilsen (Global Twitcher)

Common name:
mountain wagtail (en); alvéola-rabilonga (pt); bergeronnette à longe queue (fr); lavandera clara (es); langschwanzstelze (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Motacillidae

This species is found is isolated patches in sub-Saharan Africa, namely in Ethiopia, from southern Nigeria to Gabon, and from Kenya, Uganda, through southern D.R. Congo and Tanzania and into Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and eastern South Africa.

These birds are 17-19 cm long and weigh 15-25 g.

The mountain wagtail is found along upland rivers and streams surrounded by hills with forests, woodlands or dense scrublands, especially near waterfalls and flat rocks immersed in shallow water. They are present at altitudes of 1.500-2.000 m.

They forage along watercourses, searching for prey on rocks, in sand or in shallow water. They mostly eat insects such as flies, mosquitoes and their larvae, caddisflies, mayflies and their nymphs, dragonflies, damselflies, moths, butterflies, beetles and grubs. They also eat slugs and tadpoles.

Mountain wagtails can breed all year round, varying between different parts of their range. They are monogamous and can pair for life. The nest is a deep cup made of grasses, leaves and moss, lined with fine rootlets and hair. It is typically placed in a cavity on a stream bank, often concealed behind overhanging vegetation, or also under bridges or sometimes in trees. There the female lays 1-4 dull greyish eggs with brown spots, which are incubated by both parents for 13-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 14-18 days after hatching, but continue to depend on their parents for another 2-6 weeks.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and, although the global population size has not been quantified, it is described as frequent on suitable watercourses throughout much of its range. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

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