(1176) Motacilla flava thunbergi
The Grey-headed Wagtail.
Motacilla thunbergi Billberg, Syn. Faun. Scan., p. 50 (1828) (Lapland). Motacilla borealis. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 294.
Vernacular names. Pilkya (Hind.).
Description. - Male. Distinguishable from the preceding race at all seasons by its much darker cheeks and ear-coverts ; the throat is always yellow and not white and even the chin is often yellow also; in summer the crown and nape are a much darker grey and in Winter the general tint is darker in this race than it is in M. f. beema.
Colours of soft parts as in the Indian Blue-headed Wagtail.
Measurements. Wing 78 to 83 mm.; tail 72 to 75 mm.; culmen 11 to 12 mm.
Female and Young are generally distinguishable by their dark cheeks and ear-coverts.
Distribution. Breeds in Scandinavia, North Russia and Western Siberia but how far East and where it is replaced by M. f. beema seems still rather doubtful. In Winter it migrates to North Africa and Western Asia; commonly as far South as the United Provinces, and thence in decreasing numbers to Ceylon, where it is very numerous; East it extends to Bengal, Assam and the greater part of Burma to Tenasserim.
Nidification. The Grey-headed Wagtail breeds during May and June in tundras and marshy lands, making a nest of grass and roots lined with wool or hair, which it places among the roots of reeds or rank grass. The nest is very well made and neat and is nearly always well hidden. The eggs, four to six in number, are like those of M.f. beema, seldom conspicuously spotted and often looking an almost uniform pale greenish-stone colour. One hundred eggs average 18.3 x 13.9 mm. (Witherby).
Habits. Those of the species. A sprightly, cheerful little bird, always on the move, racing and fluttering after its insect prey; following cattle about in order to catch the insects they disturb and keeping up a constant nick of its tail. In Ceylon, Wait refers to its habit of roosting in reeds in great colonies, a habit not so conspicuous in India, though even in that country very large numbers roost iu company.