Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Isabelline Wheatear

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe isabellina | [UK] Isabelline Wheatear | [FR] Traquet isabelle | [DE] Isabell-Steinschmatzer | [ES] Collalba Collalba de Finschisabel | [NL] Isabeltapuit


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Largest wheatear in west Palearctic, with long, strong bill, long, evenly domed head, rather long body often held markedly upright, large wings, broad tail, and long strong legs.Oenanthe , with less contrast between upperparts and underparts than even females of most other species. Essentially isabelline-brown above and buff-white below, marked only by black lores in male, darker wings, broad white rump, and wide black band on tail.
In flight, wings show diagnostic pattern of dark rim above and below, with wholly pale under wing coverts. Sexes closely similar, little seasonal variation.

Listen to the sound of Isabelline Wheatear

[audio: Wheatear.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 29 cm wingspan max.: 30 cm
size min.: 16 cm size max.: 17 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 5  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : Southwest, South


Breeds in west Palearctic in lower middle and middle continental latitudes on plains and plateaux up to 3500 m in warm arid climate.
Prefers level or gently sloping terrain, open but with sufficient isolated shrubs or large rock, and with clay or sandy soil but not loose sand or surface gravel. Found locally on river banks with rich grass cover, and even, in passing, on mown lawns, but prefers very short, sparse vegetation with ample bare patches.
Accordingly, largely a steppe and steppe-desert bird, dependent on opportunities for nesting in burrows, but also occurs in fores-steppe.


End of March in Transcaspia, early June in steppes between Volga and Ural. Nest site is normally situated in burrow of rodent or sometimes bee-eater, occasionally in natural hole or crevice in ground or rock. Nest is a bulky cup of dried grass, roots, and hair, lined with hair, wool, and feathers. 5-6 eggs incubated by female for about 12 days.

Feeding habits

Diet mainly invertebrates, ants and beetles particularly important.
Usually forages by making quick dashes along ground after prey. Sometimes uses perch to watch for prey, drops down to ground, and eats item before flying up to same or new perch. Always uses firm perch.
Digs in soil with bill to extract invertebrates, especially in early spring when few on surface.


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 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.
Isabelline Wheatear status Least Concern


Migratory. Winters up to northern edge of Sahel zone of Africa, from east to west, south in east to northern Tanzania; also in Egypt and Middle East, and in Pakistan and north-west India.
Migration protracted; signs of movement as early as late January and late July, but some birds remain in wintering areas furthest west until mid-March, and in breeding areas furthest east until mid-October. Passage more conspicuous in spring than in autumn in Mediterranean areas furthest west. Passage largely nocturnal and on broad front, probably mainly in a WSW or south-west direction in autumn.

Distribution map

Isabelline Wheatear distribution range map


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