09 April 2024

Various subspecies/types of Yellow Wagtail – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the Dhahran Hills football fields in the spring I came across a number of different subspecies/types of Yellow Wagtails. The main numbers were Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema amongst them, which is an early migrant with March and April being the best months for seeing them. They are more often seen in spring then autumn. A single thunbergi, also known as Grey-headed Wagtail was seen. This subspecies occurs from Scandinavia eastwards to northwest Siberia and they winter mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and across South & southeast Asia. Yellow Wagtails are common in the Eastern Province throughout the spring with various subspecies passing but thunbergi appears to be one of the late passing subspecies with most records occurring in late April and May, so this bird was an early migrant. As always with wagtails they were difficult to get good photographs of as they are always moving and in areas with lots of vegetation. My best shots are shown below. The other common Yellow Wagtail seen was Black-headed Wagtail feldegg which along with melanogrisia are often the first subspecies to occur. They are then followed by bema, flava and thunbergi. The Black-headed Wagtail is part of the Yellow Wagtail complex a group of birds that are common spring and autumn passage migrants, sometimes in hundreds. Thy pass from mid-February to May and again from early August to mid-November with many races identifiable in the field including feldegg, melanogrisia, lutea, flava, thunbergi and bema. By April, flocks of more than a hundred birds are regularly recorded in cultivated areas. Sykes's Wagtail and Blue-headed Wagtail are sometimes difficult if not impossible to separate in the field.

Black-headed Wagtail - feldegg

Blue-headed Wagtail - flava

Sykes's Wagtail - beema

Grey-headed Wagtail - thumbergi

Sykes's Wagtail - beema

White Wagtail