Grey wagtail experience

Hi all, just joined the community. I have been feeding the birds in my garden since last June. As I haven't completed a full year of bird feeding yet, I still have a lot to learn about what to expect from my feathered visitors and what they expect from me!

I've been very fortunate enough to have daily visits from a female grey wagtail since October. I live close to a river so I expect she will be nesting near it in the spring/summer. She eats from a ground feeding tray under an RSPB cage with the smaller holes.

Does anyone have experience with grey wagtail visits and can give me an idea of what to expect when nesting season begins? Is it likely the wagtail will continue to visit my garden for food? The reason I ask is because if so, I'd like to offer her live mealworm/waxworms if she's interested. And if she would be interested in them I have to devise a way to offer them so that my daily mob of starlings (whom I'm hoping might move on some time soon!) do not gobble everything before my wagtail gets a chance!

I have spent a lot of time and money (as I'm sure many of us do) achieving a balanced set-up so that any birds that visit my garden get a fair chance at a snack. I plan to purchase a Guardian suet pellet/mealworm hanging feeder and put it on the ground for my robin and blue tits to provide them with live mealworms. I believe this will be 'starling proof' unlike my ground feeding cage. I don't think it will be suitable for my wagtail though. Not sure if she'd squeeze through the holes or get her long tail in and out!

Any experience or knowledge you can share with me on what I might expect from my wagtail visitor in the coming months is greatly appreciated!

  • Hello Violet and welcome to the community,  this is a very easy going and relaxed forum with folk on hand to help with any questions you have (mainly community users with a mixed range of knowledge from beginner to exert and not often RSPB staff as they are too busy with other duties)  so we are pretty much a self help group who share a mutual love and respect of birds/wildlife and some of us also include our passion and interest in photography too.    

    Nice to hear you have a Grey Wagtail;        we used to have a female Grey Wagtail visit daily for a few years during non-breeding season (when she would be absent for about 3-4 months) We had a pond area constructed which attracted her in to our garden.   (We have since moved house).  

       I will try and include one of my old posts on Wilma Wagtail - as I called her !      She would go into a ground guardian cage for live mealworms, even with that very long tail to manoeuvre through the mesh !      It might take your grey wagtail a few days or a week to get used to entering the guardian cage but hopefully it will learn there are live mealworms available as that is what they love the most along with other live insects.    "Wilma" did not eat anything other than aquatic invertebrates, ants, beetles, etc.,    

    It's a lovely bird to have visiting;   we used to get the Pied Wagtail too although they are more common to see.   Here's a post so you can see "our" Wilma Wagtail who was at least 5 years old;   she also brought her young back one day although Wagtails tend to be territorial outside of breeding season and will chase even their own young away once they are independent.  

     

    Once again, welcome to the community and look forward to hearing more about your bird/wildlife stories

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Thank you for the wonderful warm welcome Hazel! And thank you for sharing your own wonderful wagtail story with me. Those are fabulous photos of Wilma. I've tried in vain to get a decent close up of my beautiful little bobblebottom but I lack the right camera!
    Thank you for the advice. I will also try to hide a few waxworms in a pot in the area she frequents in my garden. Unfortunately unlike the other little birds that visit, she will absolutely not tolerate me in the garden whilst she's there. The other smaller birds will gladly sit in the bushes and watch me put out breakfast. My wagtail will just ungraciously arrive in a flurry of her squeaky chirps and a ruffled fan of feathers. If she finds me there she takes straight off again. So I can't let her 'watch me' hide some live worms for her. I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed that she manages to get some from the cage or finds the secret stash!

    You are lucky to have had up to five visiting, and that she brought her young to you. I don't have a pond, just a bird bath and water dish. But I am just around the corner from the river so I think I just got lucky. I was expecting she might disappear during breeding season. I would love it if she brought her babies to me though!

    Sorry for the ignorance but would the 3-4 months Wilma disappeared be about April to July? I've yet to experience breeding season so I'm not sure to expect in terms of when and which birds might visit me.

    The fact that you say Wilma would only eat (the normal foods wagtails prefer) makes me worry a little about mine as she eats cheese, suet pellets and bits from a robin seed mix. Which makes me worry that my wagtail is desperate? Then again, I worry far too much about my birds!

  • In reply to Violet bird bubbles:

    Wilma waggie would spook easily too although occasionally if I was already in the garden and didn't move too much she would tolerate my presence and the camera  !     I think birds can build up trust the more they see you are not a threat to them.     It's lovely you have the river nearby and she may well breed very close by.   You can get open type nesting boxes like that for a robin which would suit them but I never tried as I thought these shy birds would more likely choose somewhere out of sight of humans.       I believe they have been known to eat suet pellets and other foods but their primary diet would be insect based.    Suet won't do your wagtail any harm or a little cheese or seed   (not too much cheese because of the salt content)   but I will bet any money she/he will head straight for the live mealworms if they are on offer at the same time !        If its any help I purchased my live mealworms and waxworms from THIS COMPANY as they were the cheapest around with free delivery next day if you get your order in before noon  (arrive via regular postman) .       

    Yes,  she would disappear at exactly those times between April and July.      Hopefully your wagtail will return with her offspring around July.   As I say, once breeding season is over and the young are old enough to feed themselves the adult will become territorial and chase them away.

    During breeding season, if you don't already know,   the male will have a black "bib"    the female does not have the black at the top of the chest, under the bill.      

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • I have considered nesting boxes but we use our back garden as the entry point to our house so it's a fairly high traffic area and I expect this will put off any potential nester. (I actually make my family use the front door and take the longer route to the car park if the wagtail is in the garden so they don't disturb her!)

    I'm so glad you mentioned the high salt content in the cheese because I hadn't even considered that! I will definitely be more considerate about how much I put out now. Perhaps every day is too often?

    Thanks so much for the link, I hadn't yet decided where I would be purchasing them from so that's very helpful and I will give that company a try. I'm thinking waxworms rather than mealworms as I expect to buy in a large quantity and waxworms take very little looking after. I bought a large quantity of mealworms last year and I had too fiddle about looking after them. I assume birds will like the waxworms just as much? And when do you think the best time to start offering them would be?

    Another question if you don't mind! You mentioned you moved house some time ago, I also expect to move house by early next year. (Because I'm a worrier) I'm curious what did you do in regards to withdrawing the food you offered your birds? Did you decrease it gradually? I totally understand that birds have survived without human help since the dawn of time. And I know that my bird visitors still find their own food in the wild and just supplement their diet with what I offer. I just worry that it might have a negative impact on them in some way when the day comes that I do have to withdraw all the food I offer (they are terribly spoilt, and I hope I'm not doing them more harm than good).

    Thank you again for all your advice, it is extremely helpful and appreciated
  • I actually only last night realised that my wagtail is female and not male! I always try to do my research and had somehow wrongly identified her as male. But last night I read that if my wagtail was male it would have the black bib. Mine does not have any black at the top of her chest at all
  • In reply to Violet bird bubbles:

    Violet bird bubbles said:
    (I actually make my family use the front door and take the longer route to the car park if the wagtail is in the garden so they don't disturb her!)

    Lol,  you sound like my husband and I as we used to take a detour through the front door if Wilma was by the pond in the back garden and delayed our garden chores although a lot of the time she stayed all day so we had to disturb her as carried out our chores.    She would then return whilst we were in the garden as long as we were not too close to her favourite area near the waterfall which ran down into the main pond.      

    I'm not an expert on birds but believe at this time of year during winter months the sexes look the same and the male will start developing his breeding plumage a bit nearer springtime which will give him the black bib so it is still possible you could have a male;    wait a little while and then you will know for sure.     

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that. I also put off my chores or carefully creep around the kitchen so I don't disturb the birds in the garden. My family think I'm mad! My wagtail spends prolonged periods of time here too.
    Guess I'll have to wait and see what spring brings.
  • Violet and Hazel, I, too, have been known to move around the house a bit bent over so as to hide behind the plants in the window and not scare off the Blackbirds, Crows, Magpies or Jays, etc. Doesn't help that occasionally my husband, an avowed bird lover but clearly not as mad as I am, strides out of the back door on some chore which apparently cannot be postponed, frightening off any bird trying to get a meal out in the back garden. 'Oh, they'll come back!' says he blithely. Grrrrr!
    Hazel, Perhaps your hubby should give lessons in not scaring birds--lol!

    Kind regards, 

    Ann

  • In reply to Gardenbirder:

    Gardenbirder said:
    Doesn't help that occasionally my husband, an avowed bird lover but clearly not as mad as I am, strides out of the back door on some chore which apparently cannot be postponed, frightening off any bird trying to get a meal out in the back garden. 'Oh, they'll come back!' says he blithely. Grrrrr!
    Hazel, Perhaps your hubby should give lessons in not scaring birds--lol!

    LOL Ann,    I've lost number of the times I had been waiting patiently with the camera in the back garden to get that elusive bird in perfect position and Mike suddenly appears out of the blue just as I have locked on focus and one second from pressing the shutter button  !      So he's not an ideal candidate to give lessons in stealth    LOL      He may show you the bruises to prove what I mean   ha ha !       Can't tell you how many dints there are in my rolling pin  ;)

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to Gardenbirder:

    I'm so glad to hear it's fairly "normal" to creep around so as not to disturb the birds! My family think I'm mad when I tell them not to go out in the garden because my birds are eating lol. And no they don't always listen to me