A colorful wave of migration

This small bird is lesser known to Israelis but is definitely worth a look.

Yellow Wagtail bird (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
Yellow Wagtail bird
(photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
The sight of wagtails in Israel means that autumn is here, with winter close behind. While this applies to the white wagtail, there are four other species of wagtails in Israel. One of them is the beautiful yellow wagtail.
This small bird is lesser known to Israelis but is definitely worth a look. Its relatively low familiarity here is probably due to the fact that it only passes through our country on its way from the northern countries of Europe and western Asia.
The yellow wagtail’s destination is Africa, where this species prefers to spend the winter.
During the autumn migration, many thousands of yellow wagtails choose to land in Israel for a refreshing stop on their long journey.
Here, they feed on a variety of insects that are collected from the lower vegetation. Once a wagtail spots a tasty insect, it swoops down to the ground and, running fast, grabs its prey with its small bill. The bird must store energy for the rest of its migratory flight of thousands of kilometers to Africa.
At least eight subspecies of yellow wagtails traverse Israel. Each comes from a different region and has a different coloration. While migrating and feeding together on the ground, the wagtails often ignore their differences and act as one unit with the shared objective of reaching warm Africa.
One would assume that they would never spend the winter in Israel. However, in nature you really cannot say never, as a handful of one of the subspecies may nest in Israel.
If you have missed the autumn wave of the yellow wagtail migration, not to worry, as you will get a second chance. There will be a colorful wave of spring migration as the wagtails make their way back from Africa to Europe and Asia, flying over Israel. Or there is always next fall’s migration.