Help a single wagtail mother

Hi all,

im hoping you can offer advice - we have a wagtail couple in our garden and have been watching then for months. We are heartbroken as the mother has begun to lay eggs in a new nest but it seems that something has eaten the father as he is nowhere to be seen.

The nest is right beside our kitchen door and she is up to her fourth egg and now we don’t know how we can help her to mind the eggs and get food - without scaring her away. I’ve read that it’s important both parents are there to help with sitting and feeding - we could bear if anything happened the eggs or chicks now.

we were thinking of putting chicken wire around the pot to protect her (we have no cat but lots of crows and magpies) and maybe buying some bugs and leaving them for her to eat / hopefully feed the babies.

does anyone have any advice? Are we headed for heartbreak again? Previously we had a nest with 5 eggs and something cane and ate them...the wagtails set off laying again and soon we had 5 eggs and chicks - they were about 8 days old when we came out to find only wings..... we hadn’t put wire around the nest as we didn’t want to interfere or scare the parents away from the nest but now looking back we can’t believe we did nothing to help them....they set off building a new nest in a new pot (basically touching our kitchen door) and now the poor male is gone. It’s been a disastrous time for them and we want to help her now if we can!

thanks for your help & advice,


  • Hello Clara, you certainly have had a sad time, or rather the Wagtails, with their nest. Sad about the male being predated. They are obviously happy to be nesting near to your house and you. Birds do get used to folks going about the garden and the noises. Magpies and Crows would predate nests and if the nest had easy access, they have been able to get at it. If you are not aware, it is an offence to interfere with any nest, from when the first materials are laid or take in. There can be allowances only on certain occassions (if a nest box came loose and was hanging, larger birds had made holes in the front of the box, whereby you could quickly attach a screw or tape up the hole), if you get my meaning. I don't know about trying to fix wire though, don't know if you should or how quickly something could be done, without causing too much interference, it could make the female abandon the nest. Certainly in the back end when it is allowed to tidy up and clean out boxes, you could look to doing something then. Hopefully someone else will give you some advice.

    Where exactly is the nest positioned? Is there shrubs or foilage around it and how high up is it? My thinking is that you could for another year plant coverage of some sort (in the ground or in a pot) to help hide the nest.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.