A tractor engine might not be your first choice when thinking of a place to raise a family. However, a pair of birds at WWT Welney Wetland Centre have done just that.

Staff at the centre were surprised to find a pair of pied wagtails and their four chicks tucked into the engine of the reserve tractor. Using the tractor to cut the reserve has temporarily had to be put on hold, but the chicks are almost ready to leave the nest now and will soon be learning how to fend for themselves from mum and dad.

Nest location in engine. Credit: WWT/Adam Finch
Credit: WWT/Adam Finch

I first noticed the adults had bills filled with insects so I knew they must have a nest nearby. I checked all the obvious places like the open-fronted nest box, in amongst the nettles and crawled around the trailer. But I found that they had actually chosen the engine of the tractor. These small black and white birds have a habit of wagging their tail even when standing still. Visitors can normally get quite close to the pairs that nest along the bridge, unlike these guys who wanted to stand out from the crowd.

Louise Clewley, Reserve Warden
Wagtail chick in nest. Credit: WWT/Adam Finch