Black Wheatear (Oenanthe leucura)

Black Wheatear

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe leucura | [UK] Black Wheatear | [FR] Traquet rieur | [DE] Trauer-Steinschmatzer | [ES] Collalba negra | [NL] Zwarte Tapuit


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Oenanthe leucura EU sw, also n Africa
Oenanthe leucura leucura
Oenanthe leucura syenitica

Physical charateristics

Somewhat rounder-headed and bulkier than White-crowned Black Wheatear but no larger, with wings slightly shorter and rounder. Rather large, big-headed, and deep-chested black wheatear with broad white rump and black T on white tail. Call distinctive. Sexes distinguishable at close range, no seasonal variation.

Listen to the sound of Black Wheatear

[audio: Wheatear.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 26 cm wingspan max.: 29 cm
size min.: 18 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 14 days incubation max.: 18 days
fledging min.: 14 days fledging max.: 18 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : Southwest, also North Africa


In contrast to other west Palearctic wheatear, confined to west Mediterranean lower miiddle latitudes, largely under coastal and even oceanic influencesrather than arid or montinental. Avoids flat terrain, including wetlands, and infrequently in contact with man over most or range.


Mid April in East Pyrenees (France), Mid March in South Spain, March-April in Algeria and Tunisia. Nest site is a hole in rock wall, cliff, cave, or man-made wall.Nest, cup of dead grass and rootlets, incorporating feathers and wool. Normally builds platform of small stones at sides of nest; can be 10-15 cm wide or even more, and incorporating several hundred stones, but in such cases undoubtedly built up over several years. 3-5 eggs,
incubation 14-18 days, by female, young fledge after 14-15 days.

Feeding habits

Mainly insects. Prey usually caught on ground by ‘hop and search’ technique. May also fly from perch to catch prey on ground. Will search around large rocks or probe cracks and holes for prey, and scratch for food under bushes or other vegetation.


This species has an extremely 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). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to 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 leucura is resident in Iberia and France, with Europe accounting for less
than half of its global range. Its European breeding population is small (as few as
4,100 pairs), and underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although the species
declined in Portugal (and went extinct in France) during 1990-2000, the trend of the
stronghold population in Spain was unknown. Nevertheless, its population size renders
it susceptible to the risks affecting small populations, and consequently the species is
provisionally evaluated as Rare.
This wheatear is breeding in north-western Africa, the Iberian Peninsula and extreme southern France. It inhabits arid, stony plateau country in mountainous regions and along coasts, scattered with rocky boulders. It is sedentary. The total population of the European Union is currently estimated at 8300 breeding pairs, but it has strongly declined since the beginning of the century. The reasons for this decline are not known but could be related to a succession of hard winters
Black Wheatear status Least Concern


Generally sedentary, although some individuals disperse after breeding, and partial or total altitudinal migration occurs in some mountain regions, e.g. Atlas (Morocco) and Sierra Nevada (Spain).
In view of sedentary nature, has occurred as a vagrant over a surprisingly wide area, north to Shetland (Scotland) and Norway and east to Bulgaria and Israel. Origin of stragglers unknown; timing of records suggests that many may be dispersing juveniles.

Distribution map

Black Wheatear distribution range map

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