Spanish Wagtail X Blue-headed Wagtail

“Central Atlantique” Yellow Wagtails – flava x iberiae

by Eugene Archer

Yellow Wagtail_3241

Hi Martin,

Hope all are well there ?

Regarding the Filey wagtail I find it a bit difficult to judge exactly the colour of the upperparts, especially around the head so I don’t know if this will be of much use but here’s something else to muddle up the possibilities:
In western France (essentially from the Gironde up the Loire valleys) there is a fairly stable population (maybe 30% in some areas) of intergrade Yellow Wagtails showing plumage characters of both Blue-headed flava and Spanish iberiae. These bird are usually referred to as “Central atlantique” Yellow Wagtails locally.

Yellow Wagtail_1330Classic examples look basically like a normal flava but with a pure white throat. The blue-grey crown and nape are sometimes a little darker and often there is a prominent white sub-ocular crescent. It has also been suggested that 2CY birds may be more prone to exhibiting a full white throat. I’ve seen individuals with slightly contrastingly darker ear-coverts but not quite the full mid-grey and dark-grey head pattern of typical iberiae as it were. They give raspy calls too, like a lot of the birds around here, but I don’t have any recordings of them unfortunately.

Philippe Dubois wrote an interesting article on Yellow Wagtails in France in Ornithos, vol 8-2: 44-73 (2001) which covers the various intergrades including those on the Mediterranean coast (iberiae x cinereocapilla) which apparently can show the full range of mixed characters !

A few photos attached to show various birds from the Loire estuary region , some with variable amounts of yellow suffusions on the lower throat, some with more or less prominent supercilliums, etc. etc. ! Complicated, eh 😉

All the best,


yellow wagtail_5080yellow wagtail_5096yellow wagtail_8138yellow wagtail_5074Yellow Wagtail_1332


all photos above by Eugene Archer

2 thoughts on “Spanish Wagtail X Blue-headed Wagtail

  1. Brian Small

    Hi Martin and Eugene

    I too have seen these wagtails in France, but the one thing that struck me about them was the lack of the dark green on the breast sides and often flanks possessed by iberiae/cinereocapilla – this is a continuation of the mantle colour and obvious on Trevor Charlton’s photos on an earlier post.

    Those I have seen in France have subtly paler yellow underparts and most lack the green on the breast sides and flanks – at most it is a slight mark.

    Brian S

  2. Peter de Knijff


    I am not sure about these ‘special’ French integrades.
    Even a superficial screening of the many 100 dreds of YWT pictures on the Dutch site results in numerous identical birds at many different Dutch locations.
    Perhaps the classical yellow throat is not that classical, and white-throated birds are simply part of the normal variation of flava?


Leave a Reply