The Wagtails form the passerine bird genus Motacilla. They are small birds with long tails which they wag frequently. Motacilla, the root of the family and genus name, means moving tail. The forest wagtail belongs to the monotypic genus Dendronanthus which is closely related to Motacilla and sometimes included herein.

Wagtails are slender, often colorful, ground-feeding insectivores of open country in the Old World. They are ground nesters, laying up to six speckled eggs at a time. Among their most conspicuous behaviors is a near constant tail wagging, a trait that has given the birds their common name. In spite of the ubiquity of the behavior and observations of it, the reasons for it are poorly understood. It has been suggested that it may flush up prey, or that it may signal submissiveness to other wagtails. Recent studies have suggested instead that it is a signal of vigilance that may aid to deter potential predators.

White wagtail Motacilla alba - polyphyletic or paraphyletic
Pied wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii
Black-backed wagtail Motacilla (alba) lugens
Japanese wagtail Motacilla grandis
White-browed wagtail Motacilla maderaspatensis
Mekong wagtail Motacilla samveasnae
African pied wagtail Motacilla aguimp
Citrine wagtail Motacilla citreola - possibly paraphyletic
Western yellow wagtail Motacilla flava - possibly paraphyletic
Eastern yellow wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis - possibly paraphyletic
Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Cape wagtail Motacilla capensis
Madagascar wagtail Motacilla flaviventris
Mountain wagtail Motacilla clara