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Wheatear by Richard Bowler

Wheatear

Oenanthe oenanthe

Key Facts

  • Length: 15-16cm
  • Wingspan: 29cm
  • Weight: 24g
  • Average Lifespan: maximum 8 years

A robin-sized chat, the wheatear is a summer visitor, arriving here in early March and leaving in September for its African wintering grounds.

The wheatear frequents open rocky country, pasture, moorland and heath. Mainly a ground-dwelling bird, it can be seen running or hopping along the ground. It breeds mainly in western and northern Britain.

How to Identify

Unmistakeable if seen well, the wheatear can be distinguished by its characteristic tail pattern: a black ‘T’ on a white rump, seen when in flight. The male wheatear is a smart bird with a blue-grey back and head, black wings, a white eyestripe and a pale orange chest. Females are browner and juveniles speckled.

Where to find

A summer visitor to the north and west of Britain, found everywhere on migration.

How People Can Help

Wheatears are under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation. The Wildlife Trusts manage heathland nature reserves sympathetically for many bird species by clearing encroaching scrub and implementing beneficial grazing regimes, amongst other activities. You can help too: volunteer for The Wildlife Trusts and you could be involved in everything from traditional heathland management to raising awareness about birds.

Did you know?

The name wheatear is derived from the Old English for white (wheat) and arse (ear), referring to their white rump of course!

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