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About the middle of August there is a general return movement towards the coast, and the Wagtails now first become gregarious. At that time Mr. Knox has frequently observed them in the interior of the county, where they remain but a few days, making way for fresh detachments, which in their turn follow the same route to the sea. At the end of the month, or early in September, they may be seen of a morning, flying invariably from west to east, parallel to the shore, but following each other in constant succession.
These flights continue from daybreak until about ten o'clock in the forenoon, and so steadily do the birds pursue their course that even when one or more of an advancing party have been shot, the remainder do not fly in a different direction, but opening to right and left close their ranks and continue their progress as before. During this transit their proximity to the coast depends to some degree on the character of the country lying between the South Downs and the sea; but as they advance towards Brighton, the migrating bands, consisting chiefly of the young of the year, accumulate in vast flocks, and thus they seek the adjoining county of Kent, whence the voyage to the continent may be performed with ease and security even by birds but a few months old, and unequal to protracted flights.1
The habits of the Pied Wagtail are so generally known, that little need be said here upon the subject. Its partiality for shallow water, where it preys upon aquatic insects, and even small fish, such as minnows and sticklebacks, has led to its being familiarly known as the Water Wagtail, although it is not more aquatic in its habits than other members of the genus, indeed, scarcely so much as one species, the Grey Wagtail, whose haunts seem inseparable from the water-side.
1 For this abstract of Mr. Knox's observations, taken from his "Ornithological Rambles in Sussex," I am indebted to Professor Newton, who has thus ably condensed them in his new edition of Yarrell's " History of British Birds."
THE WHITE WAGTAIL.
/'"""* LOS ELY resembling the last-named in ^-^ form and general appearance, the White Wagtail long escaped observation as an annual summer migrant to this country. Its distinctive characters, however, are now almost universally admitted, and ornithologists experience little difficulty in recognizing the two species.
The particular respects in which the White Wagtail differs from its congeners are noticeable chiefly in the summer, or breeding plumage, when the former has a black cap clearly defined against a grey back, while in the latter the black colour of the head merges in the black of the dorsal plumage and no such cap is discernible. In summer both species have the chin black, and in winter the same parts in both are white. In the immature and winter dress it is not so easy to distinguish them, and in form and structure at all ages and seasons no real difference seems to exist. This has naturally raised some doubt in the minds of many as to the validity of the so-called species, a doubt which is strengthened by the circumstance that in regard to haunts and habits the two may be said to be inseparable.
This much, however, seems to be certain, that whereas the Pied Wagtail is generally distributed as a resident species, migrating southward at the approach of winter, the White Wagtail spends only the summer months in this country, and is then very local in its distribution.
Beyond the British Islands the White Wagtail has a much more extensive range than its congeners, being found throughout the whole of Europe, penetrating to the North Cape and even to Iceland, and travelling southward beyond the Mediterranean into Africa, to within a few degrees of the equator.