Why does a wagtail wag its tail? © Getty Images

Why does a wagtail wag its tail?

There are lots of supported reasons as to why certain birds wag their tails, but in wagtails the specific reason remains unclear.

Asked by: Marion Roderick, Norfolk

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It’s thought that tail wagging in birds may help flush out insects, or act as a signal, either to others in the group, maybe as a dominance display, or to potential predators (“I’m alert: you won’t catch me”). Evidence from other tail-wagging species supports each hypothesis, but in wagtails specifically it’s unclear. Recent observations support the idea of it being a predator signal, which seems reasonable.


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