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THE GREY-HEADED WAGTAIL
CIMILAR in form and general colouration
to the last-named, amongst the flocks of Yellow Wagtails that visit us in the spring the grey-headed species no doubt often escapes observation. But it is not on this account to be considered rare. On the contrary, there is good reason to believe that it is a regular migrant to this country, and this is not surprising when we consider that it is the common Yellow Wagtail of northern Europe, the true Motacilla flava of Linnæus. It differs chiefy from Ray's Wagtail in having a well-defined cap of a grey colour on the head, a white instead of a yellow streak over the eye, and a white chin instead of a yellow one. It frequents the same situations as the last-named, and its habits are very similar.
1 For some further points of distinction the reader may be referred to “The Birds of Middlesex,” pp. 64, 65.
The specimens which have been obtained and recorded as British, and which amount to a considerable number, have been for the most part met with on the coasts of the eastern, southern, and south-western counties of England, and almost invariably in the spring of the year. There can be no doubt that it breeds here ; indeed, the fact of its having done so in two or three instances has been already recorded. In the “ Zoologist” for 1870 (p. 2343), Mr. J. Watson of Gateshead, near Newcastleon-Tyne, writes :—“ I have seen a good many notices in the Zoologist' of the occurrence of the Grey-headed Wagtail : it may interest you to hear of its breeding in this neighbourhood. Two nests were found by a friend of mine last year on some swampy ground near here. This year on the 13th of June I found another; and on the 8th of July my friend shot two young birds beginning to assume their mature plumage : one of these birds is in the possession of and was identified by Mr. John Hancock of Newcastle."
But although the greater number of recorded British specimens have been obtained in the South of England, a few have been noticed from time to time in Scotland, and Dr. Saxby has on several occasions seen the species even as far north as Shetland. Mr. Blake Knox thinks that it occurs in Ireland, but that it is probably much overlooked, or perhaps confounded with the last-mentioned species. As it is common in summer in most of the countries of Western Europe, one would naturally expect to meet with it more frequently at the same season in Great Britain; and the increasing attention which is being paid to ornithology, and especially to the birds of particular districts, will no doubt result in the establishment of this species in the list of British birds as an annual summer migrant.
(Anthus pratensis.) DREMISING that attention is not confined
I to species which are British, it is generally admitted by ornithologists that the Pipits are a difficult group to identify. They are subject to such variation in size and colour that it has often happened that one and the same species has been described four or five times as new, under as many new names. Gradually, however, as the researches of naturalists become extended, and the transport of specimens from various quarters of the globe is facilitated, the difficulty wears off, and we are enabled to define with sufficient accuracy the limits of each species and the variations of plumage within those limits.
Were I to confine my remarks in the present instance to those Pipits only which are regular summer migrants to this country, I should not have to mention more than two species. It may be well, however, to take a glance at all those which have a claim to be included in the British list, distinguishing them under the heads of “Residents,” “ Summer Migrants,” and “Occasional Visitants.
Two species only are resident with us throughout the year—the well-known Meadow Pipit or Titlark (Anthus pratensis), and the larger Rock Pipit (Anthus obscurus). Both these, however, are to a certain extent migratory at the approach of winter, assembling in small flocks, and moving from place to place in search of food. The Tree Pipit (Anthus arboreus) visits us regularly in April, and remains in this country until September ; and there can be little doubt, from recent observations of natu