The White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) is a small passerine bird in the wagtail family Motacillidae, which also includes the pipits and longclaws. This species breeds in much of Europe and Asia and parts of north Africa. It is resident in the mildest parts of its range, but otherwise migrates to Africa. It has a toehold in Alaska as a scarce breeder. In the British Isles the darker sub-species the Pied Wagtail (M. a. yarrellii) predominates.
The White Wagtail is a slender bird, 16.5–19 cm (6½–7½ in) in length (East Asian subspecies are longer, measuring up to 21 cm (8¼ in), with the characteristic long, constantly wagging tail of its genus. Its average weight is 25 g (0.88 oz) and the maximum lifespan in the wild is ca. 12 years.The nominate subspecies Motacilla alba alba is basically grey above and white below, with a white face, black cap and black throat.
There are a number of other subspecies, some of which may have arisen because of partial geographical isolation, such as the resident British form, the Pied Wagtail M. a. yarrellii, which now also breeds in adjacent areas of the neighbouring European mainland. The Pied Wagtail, named for naturalist William Yarrell, exchanges the grey colour of the nominate form with black (or very dark grey in females), but is otherwise identical in its behaviour. Other subspecies, the validity of some of which is questionable, differ in the colour of the wings, back, and head, or other features. Some races show sexual dimorphism during the breeding season.