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Species Guide
A photo of a African Pied Wagtail (Motacilla aguimp)
African Pied Wagtail

African Pied Wagtail

Motacilla aguimp

The African pied wagtail, known scientifically as Motacilla aguimp, presents a striking black and white plumage. The upperparts are a glossy black, creating a stark contrast with the bird's white underparts. A distinctive white supercilium and a white patch on the folded wing add to its bold patterning. Juvenile birds exhibit a greyer hue, and those of the nominate subspecies display grey flanks. This species measures approximately 20 cm in length.

Identification Tips

When identifying the African pied wagtail, look for the characteristic black and white coloration. The black upperparts contrast sharply with the white underparts, and the white supercilium is a key feature. In flight, the white wing patch is visible. Juveniles are greyer than adults, and some variation in flank color can be observed in different subspecies.


This bird favors subtropical or tropical environments, particularly seasonally wet or flooded lowland grasslands and riverine areas. It can also be found in freshwater marshes. In urban settings, it often lives in close association with humans.


The African pied wagtail has a wide range across sub-Saharan Africa, from the Eastern Cape northward to the southernmost reaches of Egypt, and from Guinea to western Eritrea and Somalia. It is occasionally seen as a vagrant in Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mauritania, and the Western Cape.

Taxonomy and subspecies

Two subspecies of the African pied wagtail are recognized:

  • M. a. aguimp, found in the Northern Cape and Free State provinces of western South Africa, and along the Gariep River from southernmost Lesotho to southernmost Namibia.
  • M. a. vidua, which occupies the remainder of the species' range.


The African pied wagtail is monogamous and exhibits a strong affinity for water, often seen wagging its tail along riverbanks. It is known to build nests near water or even on buildings in human settlements. Both males and females contribute to nest construction, but only females incubate the eggs. Both parents are involved in feeding the young.


Breeding season in Malawi begins before the onset of rains and extends into the wet season, with a peak in March and October. The average clutch size is 3.9 eggs. The cup-shaped nest, lined with grass and feathers, is often placed near water or on buildings in urban areas. The species is known to be parasitized by the red-chested cuckoo and the diderick cuckoo, and chicks may fall prey to Burchell's coucal.

Similar Species

The African pied wagtail bears a resemblance to the Mekong wagtail, and genetic evidence suggests a close relationship between the two. They are also similarly related to other black-and-white wagtails like the white wagtail complex and the white-browed wagtail.

Diet and Feeding

Primarily insectivorous, the African pied wagtail also consumes other invertebrates, grass seeds, tadpoles, small fish, and occasionally human food scraps.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the African pied wagtail as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats at present.

African Pied Wagtail Sounds

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