Pipits and wagtails are in the order Passeriformes and family Motacillidae. The family Motacillidae is one of the most widespread in the world and is divided into six genera. Three genera are found in the Holarctic: Anthus (pipits), Motacilla (wagtails) and Dendronanthus (forest wagtail). Three are found only in Africa: Hemimacronyx (yellow-breasted pipit (H. chloris), and sharpe's longclaw (H. sharpei)), Tmetothylacus (golden pipit (T. tenellus)) and Macronyx (longclaws)). There are 54 to 58 species of Motacillidae, some of which interbreed.
Pipits and wagtails are small to medium sized birds with long, slim bodies and long tails (which they often bob up and down, especially while foraging). Pipits are quite drab; they have brown plumage with streaking on the breast. It is difficult to identify different species of pipits in the field. Wagtails, on the other hand, often have bright summer plumage with white, black, gray, yellow and green feathers. Sexes are dimorphic in wagtails but not pipits.
Motacillids are insectivores and are found in open and semi-open habitat. They have a worldwide distribution and are even found in Antarctica.
- Alstrom, P., K. Mild. 2003. Pipits and Wagtails. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Badyaev, A., P. Hendricks. 2001. Wagtails and Pipits. Pp. 479-484 in C Elphick, J Dunning, D Sibley, eds. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.