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The Motacillidæ or Wagtail Family

In the winter several kinds of wagtail visit the Nilgiris, but only one species remains all the year round. This is the beautiful pied wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis), of which the charming song must be familiar to all residents of Madras. On the Nilgiris the bird is not sufficiently common to require more than passing notice.

The pipits are members of the wagtail family. They have not the lively colouring of the wagtails, being clothed, like skylarks, in homely brown, spotted or streaked with dark brown or black. They have the wagtail trick of wagging the tail, but they perform the action in a half-hearted manner.

The two pipits most often seen on the Nilgiris in summer are the Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilgirensis) and the Indian pipit (A. rufulus). I know of no certain method of distinguishing these two species without catching them and examining the hind toe. This is much shorter in the former than in the latter species. The Nilgiri pipit goes about singly or in pairs, and, although it frequents grassy land, it usually keeps to cover and flies into a tree or bush when alarmed. It is confined to the highest parts of the Nilgiris. The Indian pipit affects open country and seems never to perch in trees.