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Forest wagtail

Forest wagtail
Photo Information
Copyright: Nagesh Vannur (nagesh) Silver Note Writer [C: 0 W: 0 N: 69] (362)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2015-03-30
Categories: Birds
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2015-03-31 6:07
Viewed: 796
Points: 6
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Forest wagtail

The forest wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus) is a medium-sized passerine bird in the wagtail family Motacillidae. It has a distinctive plumage that sets it apart from other wagtails and has the habit of wagging its tail sideways unlike the usual up and down movements of the other wagtail species. It is the only wagtail species that nests in trees. They are found mainly in forested habitats, breeding in the temperate parts of east Asia and wintering across tropical Asia from India to Indonesia.


This is a distinctive wagtail, the only one placed in the genus Dendronanthus (all other wagtails are placed in Motacilla). The forest wagtail is 18 cm in length, a slender bird with a long tail. The back and crown are olive brown, and the wings are black with two yellow wing bars and white tertial edges. There is a white supercilium, above a dark stripe through the eye. The underparts are white, apart from a black double breast band. The upper breast band is bib-like while the lower band is often broken. Sexes are similar. Young birds are more yellowish on the underside.

Distribution and habitat

As its English and scientific names imply, this is a forest species, a distinction from all other wagtails. It is usually found in open areas of the woodland such as clearings. In winter it is found mainly in well-shaded forest habitats or along paths in coffee plantations and clearings in forests.

The breeding areas are in eastern Asia, parts of Korea, parts of China (Kansu, Anhwei, Hunan) and parts of Siberia. Southern records of breeding from Assam have been questioned. It migrates to the warmer parts of Asia in winter and it has been suggested that they reach southern India and Sri Lanka via the Andaman Islands.It has been recorded as a vagrant in the Maldives.

Behaviour and ecology

These wagtails are found singly or in small groups. They often forage in the trees and capture insects along the branches of trees. They may also forage on the ground like a pipit and when disturbed, it flies up into the trees with a sharp pink note. They roost in the company of other wagtails among reeds. The song includes disyllabic tsi-fee notes repeated several times. They can climb steep branches and will run rapidly along horizontal branches.

The breeding season is May in northeastern India and June in the Amur region. The forest wagtail leaves the winter quarters towards the end of March from Sri Lanka and mid March from the Malay Peninsula, the last birds leaving around May. During particularly cold springs, the arrival in the summer breeding grounds near the Kedrovaya River (Ussuri Land) can be as late as the end of May. Males sing from May to July, and when calling the bird sways at each syllable. It is the only wagtail that builds nests on trees, often favouring oaks. It builds its cup-shaped nest made up of fine grass and rootlets matted with moss and cobwebs. The nest is built by the female alone and the male stands guard nearby. The usual clutch is five eggs, incubated by the female alone for about 13 to 15 days. Incubation begins before the full clutch is laid and the eggs hatch at intervals. The young fledge and leave the nest after about 10 to 12 days. Both the males and females take part in feeding the young. Like other wagtails, this species is insectivorous.

Apart from its unusual plumage pattern and habitat, the forest wagtail differs from its Motacilla relatives in its strange habit of swaying its tail from side to side, not wagging it up and down like other wagtails. The Japanese name Jokofury-sekirei (=sideways-swinging wagtail) ) is based on this habit. In Sri Lanka, they often search for maggots in cattle dung and for this reason are known as gomarita (=dung-spreader).

The brown shrike (Lanius cristatus confusus) sometimes imitates the calls of the forest wagtail.


BirdLife International (2012). "Dendronanthus indicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
Baker, E C Stuart (1926). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. Volume 3 (2 ed.). pp. 275–277.
to: a b c Ali, S. & S.D.Ripley (1998). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 9 (2 ed.). New Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 277–280.
to: a b c d e Neufeldt, Irene (1961). "The breeding biology of the Forest Wagtail, Motacilla indica Gmelin". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 58 (3): 559–588.
Anderson, RC & M Baldock (2001). "New records of birds from the Maldives, with notes on other species". Forktail 17: 67–73.
Hoffmann, A (1952). "Ueber den Gesang der Indischen Baumstelze Dendronanthus indicus (Gmelin)". Bonner Zool. Beitr. (in German) 1–2 (3): 11–16.
Austin, O L (1948). "The birds of Korea". Bulletin of the museum of comparative zoology 101: 1–302.
Jerdon, TC (1863). The birds of India. Volume 2. Part 1. The Military Orphan Press, Calcutta. p. 226.
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Location: The Western Ghats are a mountain range that runs almost parallel to the western coast of Indian peninsula. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity in the world. It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India. The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea. A total of thirty nine properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests were designated as world heritage sites - twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.

The range starts near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the Tapti river, and runs approximately 1,600 km (990 mi) through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India. These hills cover 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) and form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India. The Western Ghats block southwest monsoon winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau. The average elevation is around 1,200 m (3,900 ft).

The area is one of the world's ten "Hottest biodiversity hotspots" and has over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species and 288 freshwater fish species; it is likely that many undiscovered species live in the Western Ghats. At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats.
Photo Taken By. 2015 -- Photo Taken Time:
Thank you very much for reading:)

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He is beautiful what is in his mind of this wagtail,
a beautiful note and details well done NAGESH VANNUR

  • Great 
  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2015-03-31 18:52]

Hello Nagesh,
What a pretty wagtail you have presented to us. Perched so nicely while giving us a great look at it's beautiful markings and colors. Tac sharp focus showing good detail and wonderful eye contact. I like the overall composition and the exposure is just right. Well done!!

Bonjour Nagesh,
Agréable valorisation du sujet dans un cadrage qui me semble, là-aussi, trop large.
A bientôt sur TN pour de nouvelles aventures.

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