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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Subsectio: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Infraclassis: Aves
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Passeri
Infraordo: Passerida
Superfamilia: Passeroidea

Familia: Motacillidae
Genera: Anthus - Dendronanthus - Macronyx - Motacilla - Tmetothylacus


Motacillidae Horsfield, 1821
Vernacular names
беларуская: Сітаўкавыя
Deutsch: Stelzen und Pieper
English: Pipits & Wagtails
hrvatski: Pliske
日本語: セキレイ科
македонски: Тресиопашки
Nederlands: Kwikstaarten en piepers
Türkçe: Kuyruksallayangiller
中文: 鹡鸰科

The wagtails, longclaws and pipits are a family, Motacillidae, of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. There are around 70 species in 5 genera. The longclaws are entirely restricted to the Afrotropics, and the wagtails are predominantly found in Europe, Africa and Asia, with two species migrating and breeding in Alaska. The pipits have the most cosmopolitan distribution, being found across mostly in the Old World but occurring also in the Americas and oceanic islands such as New Zealand and the Falklands. Two African species, the yellow-breasted pipit and Sharpe's longclaw, are sometimes placed in a separate seventh genus, Hemimacronyx, which is closely related to the longclaws.[1]

Most motacillids are ground-feeding insectivores[2] of slightly open country. They occupy almost all available habitats, from the shore to high mountains. Wagtails prefer wetter habitats to the pipits. A few species use forests, including the forest wagtail, and other species use forested mountain streams, such as the grey wagtail or the mountain wagtail.

Motacillids take a wide range of invertebrate prey, especially insects are the most commonly taken, but also including spiders, worms, and small aquatic molluscs and arthropods. All species seem to be fairly catholic in their diet, and the most commonly taken prey for any particular species or population usually reflects local availability.

With the exception of the forest wagtail, they nest on the ground,[2] laying up to six speckled eggs.


Wagtails, pipits, and longclaws are slender, small to medium-sized passerines, ranging from 14 to 17 centimetres in length, with short necks and long tails.[2] They have long, pale legs with long toes and claws, particularly the hind toe which can be up to 4 cm in length in some longclaws. There is no sexual dimorphism in size. Overall the robust longclaws are larger than the pipits and wagtails. Longclaws can weigh as much as 64 g, whereas the weight range for pipits and wagtails is 15–31 g. The plumage of most pipits is dull brown and reminiscent of the larks, although some species have brighter plumages, particularly the golden pipit of north-east Africa. The adult male longclaws have brightly coloured undersides. The wagtails often have striking plumage, including grey, black, white, and yellow.

A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2019 sampled 56 of the 68 recognised species in the family Motacillidae and found that the species formed six major clades. The pipit genus Anthus was paraphyletic with respect to the longclaw genus Macronyx. The striped pipit (Anthus lineiventris) and the African rock pipit (Anthus crenatus) were nested with the longclaws in Macronyx.[3] The type species of Anthus, the meadow pipit, was nested with the other Palearctic species in Clade 2.[4][3]


Motacilla – typical wagtails

Clade 4 - Anthus – large bodied African species

Macronyx – longclaws – but includes golden pipit (Tmetothylacus tenellus) and yellow-breasted pipit (Anthus chloris)

Clade 3 – Anthus – striped pipit (Anthus lineiventris) and African rock pipit (Anthus crenatus)

Clade 2 – Anthus – Palearctic species

Clade 1 – Anthus – New World and small bodied African species

Species and genera


Voelker, Gary; Scott V. Edwards (1998). "Can weighting improve bushy trees? Models of cytochrome b evolution and the molecular systematics of pipits and wagtails (Aves: Motacillidae)". Systematic Biology. 47 (4): 589–603. doi:10.1080/106351598260608. PMID 12066304.
Clancey, P.A. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 172–173. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
Pietersen, D.W.; McKechnie, A.E.; Jansen, R.; Little, I.T.; Bastos, A.D.S. (2019). "Multi-locus phylogeny of African pipits and longclaws (Aves: Motacillidae) highlights taxonomic inconsistencies". Ibis. 161 (4): 781–792. doi:10.1111/ibi.12683.
Mayr, Ernst; Greenway, James C. Jr, eds. (1960). Check-List of Birds of the World. Volume 9. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 144.

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