|Buff-bellied pipit (Anthus rubescens)|
The Motacillidae are a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. There are around 65 species in 6 genera and they include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. The longclaws are entirely restricted to the Afrotropics, and the wagtails are predominantly found in Europe, Africa and Asia, with two species migrating and breeding in Alaska. The pipits have the most cosmopolitan distribution, being found across mostly in the Old World but occurring also in the Americas and oceanic islands such as New Zealand and the Falklands. Two African species, the yellow-breasted pipit and Sharpe's longclaw are sometimes placed in a separate seventh genus, Hemimacronyx, which is closely related to the longclaws.
Wagtails, pipits, and longclaws are slender, small to medium sized passerines, ranging from 14 to 17 centimetres in length, with short necks and long tails. They have long, pale legs with long toes and claws, particularly the hind toe which can be up to 4 cm in length in some longclaws. There is no sexual dimorphism in size. Overall the robust longclaws are larger than the pipits and wagtails. Longclaws can weigh as much as 64 g, whereas the weight range for pipits and wagtails is 15–31 g. The plumage of most pipits is dull brown and reminiscent of the larks, although some species have brighter plumages, particularly the golden pipit of north-east Africa. The adult male longclaws have brightly coloured undersides. The wagtails often have striking plumage, including grey, black, white, and yellow.
Most motacillids are ground-feeding insectivores of slightly open country. They occupy almost all available habitats, from the shore to high mountains. Wagtails prefer wetter habitats to the pipits. A few species use forests, including the forest wagtail, and other species use forested mountain streams, such as the grey wagtail or the mountain wagtail.
Motacillids take a wide range of invertebrate prey, especially insects are the most commonly taken, but also including spiders, worms, and small aquatic molluscs and arthropods. All species seem to be fairly catholic in their diet, and the most commonly taken prey for any particular species or population usually reflects local availability.
With the exception of the forest wagtail, they nest on the ground, laying up to six speckled eggs.
Species and genera
- Genus Anthus: typical pipits
- (c.40 species; see genus page)
- Genus Tmetothylacus
- Golden pipit, Tmetothylacus tenellus
- Genus Motacilla: typical wagtails
- White wagtail Motacilla alba - possibly paraphyletic
- Japanese wagtail Motacilla grandis
- White-browed wagtail Motacilla madaraspatensis
- Mekong wagtail Motacilla samveasnae
- African pied wagtail Motacilla aguimp
- Citrine wagtail Motacilla citreola - possibly paraphyletic
- Western yellow wagtail Motacilla flava - possibly paraphyletic
- Eastern yellow wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis - possibly paraphyletic
- Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea
- Cape wagtail Motacilla capensis
- Madagascar wagtail Motacilla flaviventris
- Mountain wagtail Motacilla clara
- Genus Dendronanthus
- Forest wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus
- Genus Macronyx: longclaws
- Cape longclaw, Macronyx capensis
- Yellow-throated longclaw, Macronyx croceus
- Fülleborn's longclaw, Macronyx fuellebornii
- Sharpe's longclaw, Macronyx sharpei
- Abyssinian longclaw, Macronyx flavicollis
- Pangani longclaw, Macronyx aurantiigula
- Rosy-throated longclaw, Macronyx ameliae
- Grimwood's longclaw, Macronyx grimwoodi.
- Voelker, Gary; Scott V. Edwards (1998). "Can Weighting Improve Bushy Trees? Models of Cytochrome b Evolution and the Molecular Systematics of Pipits and Wagtails (Aves: Motacillidae)". Systematic Biology 47 (4): 589–603. doi:10.1080/106351598260608. PMID 12066304.
- Clancey, P.A. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 172–173. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Motacillidae.|
- Motacillidae videos on the Internet Bird Collection