Bird of the Week – Yellow Wagtail


In the Western Hemisphere, the Yellow Wagtail’s range is restricted to Western Alaska and the North Slope east to the MacKenzie River in Canada.

Yellow Wagtail, Chevak, Alaska

Yellow Wagtail, Chevak, Alaska

Science – specifically, the American Ornithological Union – has recently determined that the North American population is a separate species from the more widespread Asian population. The decision to create two species where there was one is called a “split.” Alaska’s bird is formally the Eastern Yellow Wagtail. And there are a bewildering number of subspecies.

Yellow Wagtail, Nome, Alaska

Yellow Wagtail, Nome, Alaska

Alaska’s birds probably winter in southern China and Taiwan, perhaps as far south as New Guinea.  Like a lot of other Asian birds that breed in Alaska, they aren’t well-researched or fully understood.

Yellow Wagtails are mostly bug eaters; it’s what a self-respecting bird does who comes to western and far northern Alaska in the spring. You’re there for the food for yourself and your kids. And, Lord knows, there’s no shortage of bugs.

If you’re out in that direction in the summer, look for a yellow-chested bird with an olive back, with a longish tail that is constantly being wagged about.  Because the species deserves its name.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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