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Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

The wheatear is easily identified as it flies away by its striking white rump.

Common name: wheatear, northern wheatear

Scientific name: Oenanthe oenanthe

Family: Muscicapidae (Old world flycatchers)

Appearance

Head: The male has black cheeks, a white eye stripe and a grey crown. The female has brownish-orange cheeks, a grey-brown eye stripe and crown.

Wings: Male wheatears wings are grey and dark to brown to black, while females are grey-brown.

Body: Both sexes have a striking white rump and cream underparts with an orange-flushed breast. The species is larger than a robin, but smaller than a blackbird.

Where to spot

Summer migrants, wheatears first begin to arrive in March. They are typically found in open, upland habitat in Scotland, northern and south-west England and Wales, but may be seen along the coast elsewhere while passing through on migration. The species will fly south to Africa in September and October.

Feeding

The wheatear diet mostly consists of insects and other invertebrates, but it will also eat berries.

Breeding

A nest will typically be built in a sheltered cavity between rocks, a rabbit burrow or man-made hole in a wall or other feature. Eggs are normally laid in May, with the chicks fledging around two weeks after hatching.

Facts

  • The wheatear makes one of the longest journeys of any small bird, crossing oceans, ice and deserts.
  • Miniature tracking devices have shown that its migratory flight averages 30,000 km (18,640 miles).
  • An estimated 230,000 pairs breed in the UK each year.

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