Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica)

Black-eared Wheatear

Black-eared Wheatear

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe hispanica | [UK] Black-eared Wheatear | [FR] Traquet oreillard | [DE] Mittelmeer-Steinschmatzer | [ES] Collalba rubia | [NL] Blonde Tapuit


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Oenanthe hispanica EU sw w, ne AF
Oenanthe hispanica hispanica
Oenanthe hispanica melanoleuca

Physical charateristics

Rather slim elegant wheatear, with long, conspicuous tail giving slimmer, lengthier outline than most others of similar plumage. Rump and tail pattern basically as Northern Wheatear but black terminal band less uniformly broad, though more black long outer edge than in any other wheatear.
Spring male has wholly or partly black scapulars and wings more obviously divided by pale back and white rump and tail than any other wheatear.
Female has stronger pattern than many female wheatears, having black wings contrasting boldly with sandy back and chest. Black under wing-coverts striking, particularly in western race which has paler undersurface to flight-feathers than eastern one.
Sexes markedly dissimilar in spring, less so in autumn.

Listen to the sound of Black-eared Wheatear

[audio: Wheatear.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 25 cm wingspan max.: 27 cm
size min.: 14 cm size max.: 16 cm
incubation min.: 13 days incubation max.: 14 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 14 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : Southwest


Breeds at lower middle latitudes in warm mainly continental Mediterranean and steppe regions. Inhabiting steppes with rocky outcrops or stony hillocks and slopes, and cliff-like river banks. More generally in open or lightly wooded arid county, also on warm rocky lowlands and stony ground, limestone hills, slopes with debris, dry river valleys, dry and stony fields, Mediterranean heaths with oaks, vineyards with stone banks, and dry cultivations.


April-June in Algeria and Tunisia, April-May in Spain, early May in Greece and late April in Armenia. Nest site is on ground in shallow hole, under stone, in thick vegetation, or at base of dense bush. Nest is a cup of grass and moss, lined with finer material including hair. 4-5 eggs, incubation 13-14 days tended by female only.

Feeding habits

Almost entirely insects. Taken mainly from bare ground or short vegetation. Usually watches for prey from perch.
Light weight allows it to perch on flimsy vegetation unusable by other heavier Oenanthe. Birds also make short flights from perches and catch prey in flight like flycatcher.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Oenanthe hispanica is a widespread summer visitor to southern Europe, which constitutes
>50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large
(>1,400,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although the
species was stable or increased in most of its range during 1990-2000, declines continued
in a few countries?notably Spain?and it probably underwent a small decline overall.
Its population size has clearly not yet recovered to the level that preceded its decline,
and consequently the species is provisionally evaluated as Depleted.
Black-eared Wheatear status Least Concern


Migratory. Winters in semi-desert and Acacia savanna belt across northern tropical Africa from Senegal to Ethiopia. Nominate hispanica (breeding south-west Europe and North Africa) winters south of c. 18 degrees N, mainly in northern Senegal, south-west Mauritania, and Mali. Eastern race, melanoleuca (breeding east from south-east Italy), tends to replace nominate hispanica on wintering grounds east of 0-5 degrees E, although there is overlap in Mali.
Departure from breeding grounds August-September. Arrival on wintering grounds from mid-September (hispanica) or September-October (melanoleuca); departure mainly March-April, arriving on breeding grounds mainly from late March to early May.

Distribution map

Black-eared Wheatear distribution range map

Black-eared Wheatear distribution range map

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