Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)

Desert Wheatear

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe deserti | [UK] Desert Wheatear | [FR] Traquet du desert | [DE] Wusten-Steinschmatzer | [ES] Collalba desertica | [NL] Woestijntapuit


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Oenanthe deserti EU sc, c, also n Africa
Oenanthe deserti deserti
Oenanthe deserti homochroa
Oenanthe deserti oreophila

Physical charateristics

Raher small, round-headed, compact wheatear. All-black tail diagnostic.
Male distinguished by black face and throat and white inner wing-coverts, female by more uniform appearance than congeners.
Sexes markedly dissimilar in spring, less so in autumn.

Listen to the sound of Desert Wheatear

[audio: Wheatear.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 24 cm wingspan max.: 28 cm
size min.: 14 cm size max.: 15 cm
incubation min.: 13 days incubation max.: 14 days
fledging min.: 13 days fledging max.: 14 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : Southcentral, Central, also North Africa


In lower middle latitudes, mainly continental, warm and arid, in steppe, Mediterranean, and desert Zones, on wide variety of terrain from sea-level to high plateaux and even mountain summits extralimitally in Asia.
In North Africa, occurs on Atlantic coast and on degraded steppe at edge of Sahara. Occupying coastal zone and preferring heath-type and shrubby habitat with tamarisk, also river beds. Prefers stony or sandy soils, avoiding gravel tracts and pure desert, even where rich in insects, and bare sand-dunes.


Starts March-May in Algeria and Tunisia, April-May in Middle East, late April in Kazakhstan. Nest site is built in a hole in ground, or among rocks, often in old rodent burrow.
Nest is a bulky cup of grass, dead leaves, and roots, lined with hair, feathers, and wool. Clutch 4-5 eggs, incubation 13-14 days tended to by female only.

Feeding habits

Diet predominantly insects, particularly ants, beetles, and larvae, occasionally spiders, worms, small lizards, and seeds. Takes food mainly from bare ground, sometimes from low vegetation or in flight like flycatcher.


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 has not been quantified, 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.
Desert Wheatear status Least Concern


Most populations migratory, some only partially. Winters in Africa south to Sahel zone, in south-west Asia and east to central India, and in eastern Himalayas. Frequent vagrant over large area north to Sweden, west to Canary Islands, and east to Kuril Islands (eastern Russia). Timing of movements and routes taken poorly known.

Distribution map

Desert Wheatear distribution range map


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