This bird family contains small passerines, such as Wagtails, Longclaws and Pipits. They are divided over six genera, two of which show hybridization (Motacilla and Anthus).


A hybrid between Meadow Pipit (A. pratensis) and Water Pipit (A. spinoletta) was confirmed by genetic analysis (Bures, Nadvornik & Saetre, 2002).

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) and Water Pipit (A. spinoletta)

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) and Water Pipit (A. spinoletta)


A few Russian studies report hybridization between (sub)species or populations of Wagtails. The complicated taxonomy of these birds hinders interpretation of the results.  In general subspecies are not supported by genetic data (Pavlova et al., 2005; Harris et al., 2018; Semenov et al., 2018). In the Yamal Peninsula, White Wagtails (M. alba) are separated into tundra and forest populations. The zone between these habitats may contain hybrids (Ryzhanovskii, 2006). In addition, two subspecies of Siberian White Wagtails (M. a. alba and M. a. personata) interbreed, resulting in introgression (Semenov, Yurlov & Khaydarov, 2010). A detailed analysis of a hybrid zone between these subspecies indicated that head plumage is determined by two genomic regions and probably plays an important role in reproductive isolation (Semenov, et al. 2017, Semenov et al., 2021).

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)


Bures, S., Nadvornik, P. & Saetre, G. P. (2002). Brief report – Hybridization and apparent hybridization between meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis) and water pipit (A-spinoletta). Hereditas 136, 254-256.

Harris, R. B., Alström, P., Ödeen, A., & Leaché, A. D. (2018). Discordance between genomic divergence and phenotypic variation in a rapidly evolving avian genus (Motacilla). Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 120: 183-195.

Pavlova, A., Zink, R.M., Rowher, S., Koblik, E.A., Red’kin, Y.A., Fadeev, I.V. & Nesterov, E.V. (2005) Mitochondrial DNA and plumage evolution in the white wagtail Motacilla alba. Journal of Avian Biology 36(4), 322-336.

Ryzhanovskii, V. (2006). Evidence for the existence of a high-altitude white wagtail (Motacilla alba) population in the Yamal peninsula and the boundaries of its distribution. Russian Journal of Ecology 37, 120-125.

Semenov, G., Yurlov, A. & Khaydarov, D. (2010). Hybridization of Motacilla alba Linnaeus, 1758, and M.(a.) personata Gould, 1861, in the south of Siberia. Contemporary Problems of Ecology 3, 579-586.

Semenov G.A., Scordato E.S., Khaydarov D.R., Smith C.C., Kane N.C., Safran R.J. (2017). Effects of Assortative Mate Choice on the Genomic and Morphological Structure of a Hybrid Zone Between Two Bird Subspecies. Molecular Ecology. 00, 1-15.

Semenov, G.A., Koblik, E.A., Red’Kin, Y.A. & Badyeav, A.V. (2018) Extensive phenotypic diversification coexists with little genetic divergence and lack of population structure in the White Wagtail subspecies complex (Motacilla alba). Journal of Evolutionary Biology

Semenov, G. A., Linck, E., Enbody, E. D., Harris, R. B., Khaydarov, D. R., Alström, P., Andersson, L. & Taylor, S. A. (2021). Asymmetric introgression reveals the genetic architecture of a plumage trait. Nature Communications12(1), 1-9.

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