British records of ‘Eastern Yellow Wagtails’

Published on 28 January 2013 in Main articles

by Martin Collinson, Aaron Smith, Steve Waite and Bob McGowan

Abstract An eastern subspecies of Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla flava simillima, was added to the British List on the basis of two specimens collected on Fair Isle in 1909 and 1912. No further records have been accepted, in spite of the regular occurrence of ‘grey-and-white’ first-winter Yellow Wagtails in Britain in autumn, which have been suspected to be of eastern origin. This short paper reports a genetic analysis of the two accepted specimens and also a recent record of a putative ‘eastern’ Yellow Wagtail trapped at Colyton, Devon, in December 2010. The 1912 bird was shown to be of western origin and is probably a ‘British’ Yellow Wagtail M. f. flavissima. In contrast, the 1909 and 2010 birds were shown to be of eastern origin. The systematics of Yellow Wagtails are currently in flux, with no universally accepted treatment, but the specific or subspecific identities of the 1909 and 2010 birds are discussed.

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The Devon Eastern Yellow Wagtail, by Steve Waite