The British Trust for Ornithology
Motacilla flava
Yellow Wagtail © Tommy Holden
Conservation listings

Biodiversity Steering Group Conservation Concern List

  Long-term trend
UK: Probable decline
Waterways: Rapid decline
Status summary
Britain holds almost the entire population of the distinctive race flavissima, and so population changes in the UK are of special signficance. Yellow Wagtails appear to have been in decline since the early 1980s, but the reduction in the CBC index is not significant and that in the WBS index may not be representative of the population as a whole. Gibbons et al. (1993) identified a concurrent range contraction towards a core area in central England. BBS results suggest that the decline may be continuing; farmland drainage and the conversion of pasture to arable land have been cited as potential causes (Gibbons et al. 1993). Although sample sizes are small, there has been a significant reduction in brood size over the past 30 years.
Table of population changes for Yellow Wagtail
Source Period
Years Plots
Alert Comment
CBC all habitats 31 1968-1999 27 -48 -78 -11 >25  
  25 1974-1999 26 -36 -72 9    
  10 1989-1999 17 -28 -55 3   Small sample
  5 1994-1999 16 11 -27 49   Small sample
WBS waterways 24 1975-1999 21 -84 -95 -74 >50  
  10 1989-1999 17 -71 -83 -58 >50 Small sample
  5 1994-1999 15 -53 -69 -36 >50 Small sample
BBS UK 6 1994-2000 157 -5 -19 13    
BBS England 6 1994-2000 154 -4 -19 14    
The Breeding Bird Survey is jointly funded by BTO, JNCC and RSPB
Table of productivity information for Yellow Wagtail
Variable Period
Years Mean
Trend Predicted
in first year
in last year
Change Comment
Brood size 31 1968-1999 13 Linear decline 4.86 chicks 4.38 chicks -0.48 chicks Small sample
Insufficient data on clutch size
available for this species


Insufficient data on nest failure
available for this species



Insufficient data on nestling failure
available for this species


Insufficient data on laying date
available for this species
Insufficient data on CES
available for this species

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This report should be cited as:
Baillie, S.R., Crick, H.Q.P., Balmer, D.E., Beaven, L.P., Downie, I.S., Freeman, S.N., Leech, D.I., Marchant, J.H.,
Noble, D.G., Raven, M.J., Simpkin, A.P., Thewlis, R.M. and Wernham, C.V.
(2002) Breeding Birds in the Wider
Countryside: their conservation status 2001. BTO Research Report No. 278. BTO, Thetford. (

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This page last updated: 21 April, 2008

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