Wheatear

The wheatears /ˈhwiːtɪər/ are passerine birds of the genus Oenanthe. They were formerly considered to be members of the thrush family, Turdidae, but are now more commonly placed in the flycatcher family, Muscicapidae. This is an Old World group, but the northern wheatear has established a foothold in eastern Canada and Greenland and in western Canada and Alaska.

Wheatears
Oenanthe oenanthe 01 II
Male northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Muscicapidae
Subfamily: Saxicolinae
Genus: Oenanthe
Vieillot, 1816
Type species
Turdus leucurus
Gmelin, 1789
Species

See text

Synonyms

Cercomela

Etymology

The name "wheatear" is not derived from "wheat" or any sense of "ear", but is a folk etymology of "white" and "arse", referring to the prominent white rump found in most species.[1]

The genus name Oenanthe is derived from the Greek oenos (οίνος) "wine" and anthos (ανθός) "flower". It refers to the northern wheatear's return to Greece in the spring just as the grapevines blossom.[2]

Taxonomy

The genus Oenanthe was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1816 with Oenanthe leucura, the black wheatear, as the type species.[3][4] The genus formerly included fewer species but molecular phylogenetic studies of birds in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae found that the genus Cercomela was polyphyletic with five species, including the type species C. melanura, phylogenetically nested within the genus Oenanthe.[5][6] This implied that Cercomela and Oenanthe were synonyms. The genus Oenanthe (Vieillot, 1816) has taxonomic priority over Cercomela (Bonaparte, 1856) making Cercomela a junior synonym.[5][7] None the less, Cercomela is considered a valid genus on the Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, managed by the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. [8]

Description

Most species have characteristic black and white or red and white markings on their rumps or their long tails. Most species are strongly sexually dimorphic; only the male has the striking plumage patterns characteristic of the genus, though the females share the white or red rump patches.

Species list

The genus contains 28 species:[9]

Behaviour

Wheatears are terrestrial insectivorous birds of open, often dry, country. They often nest in rock crevices or disused burrows. Northern species are long-distance migrants, wintering in Africa.

Fossil record

  • Oenanthe kormosi (Late Miocenee of Polgardi, Hungary) [10]
  • Oenanthe pongraczi (Plioceme of Csarnota, Hungary) [10]

References

  1. ^ "Wheatear". Merriam Webster Online. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  2. ^ "Northern Wheatear". eNature. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
  3. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Paynter, Raymond A. Jr, eds. (1960). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 10. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 121.
  4. ^ Vieillot, Louis Jean Pierre (1883) [1816]. Saunders, Howard (ed.). Vieillot's Analyse d'une nouvelle ornithologie élémentaire (in French). London. p. 43.
  5. ^ a b Outlaw, R.K.; Voelker, G.; Bowie, R.C.K. (2010). "Shall we chat? Evolutionary relationships in the genus Cercomela (Muscicapidae) and its relation to Oenanthe reveals extensive polyphyly among chats distributed in Africa, India and the Palearctic". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 55 (1): 284–292. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.09.023. PMID 19772925.
  6. ^ Aliabadian, M.; Kaboli, M.; Förschler, M.I.; Nijman, V.; Chamani, A.; Tillier, A.; Prodon, R.; Pasquet, E.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Zuccon, D. (2012). "Convergent evolution of morphological and ecological traits in the open-habitat chat complex (Aves, Muscicapidae: Saxicolinae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 65 (1): 35–45. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.05.011. PMID 22634240.
  7. ^ Sangster, George; Collinson, J. Martin; Crochet, Pierre-André; Knox, Alan G.; Parkin, David T.; Votier, Stephen C. (2013). "Taxonomic recommendations for Western Palearctic birds: ninth report". Ibis. 155 (4): 898–907 [903]. doi:10.1111/ibi.12091.
  8. ^ Clements Checklist of Birds of the World http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/
  9. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Chats, Old World flycatchers". World Bird List Version 6.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  10. ^ a b Kessler, E. 2013. Neogene songbirds (Aves, Passeriformes) from Hungary. – Hantkeniana, Budapest, 2013, 8: 37-149.
Black-eared wheatear

The black-eared wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica) is a wheatear, a small migratory passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher (family Muscicapidae).

This 13.5–15.5 cm (5.3–6.1 in) long insectivorous species is dimorphic with eastern and western races, sometimes split as eastern black-eared wheatear (Oenanthe melanoleuca) and western black-eared wheatear (which then retains the name hispanica). In both forms, birds with or without a black throat are met with.

The breeding male of the western form O. h. hispanica of the Iberian peninsula and north Africa has the forehead and crown white or nearly white, the mantle buff, and the wings blacker than those of the northern wheatear. The underparts are white tinged with buff. The back, upper tail coverts and most of the tail are white. The ear coverts and a line from the bill, and sometimes the throat, are black (sometimes referred to as dark morph).

In autumn and winter the head and mantle are distinctly buff, as are the underparts, including the throat, but the buff varies in intensity. Except for the central pair, the tail feathers are much whiter than in the northern wheatear, the white on the inner web often extending to the tip.

The female is a browner bird, but has the characteristic lower back, and her seasonal changes are less marked.

The eastern O. h. melanoleuca is found in the eastern Mediterranean, and migrates to winter quarters in the Sudan.

The male of the eastern form is even whiter in summer than the western bird, but as a rule may be distinguished by the line which extends across the base of the bill. Black-throated individuals of this race have a greater amount of black on the throat and face than on the western birds, and the black generally terminates more abruptly or in a straighter line.

It is a rare vagrant to northwest Europe.

Black wheatear

The black wheatear (Oenanthe leucura) is a wheatear, a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family, Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher of the Muscicapidae.

This large 16–18 cm long wheatear breeds on cliffs and rocky slopes in western north Africa and Iberia. It is largely resident and nests in crevices in rocks laying 3-6 eggs.

The male of this species is all black except a white rump and mainly white tail. The female is similar, but dark brown rather than black.

The similar white-crowned wheatear, Oenanthe leucopyga, also breeds in the African part of the black wheatear's range, but the black wheatear has a black inverted "T" on its white tail, whereas white-crowned has only a black centre to its tail. The black wheatear never has a white crown, but young white-crowned wheatears also lack this feature.

The food of this wheatear is mainly insects. It has a loud thrush-like song.

Capped wheatear

The capped wheatear (Oenanthe pileata) is a small insectivorous passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae.

This wheatear is found in open dry sandy and stony habitats and short grassland with a few bushes and termite mounds in Africa, from Kenya and Angola south to the Cape. It is largely non-migratory, but undertakes seasonal movements.

The capped wheatear is 17–18 cm long and weighs 32 g. Its legs and pointed bill are black. This common species is striking and unmistakable in appearance. The adult has a black cap, cheeks and breast band, and white eye stripe and throat. The rest of the underparts are white with buff on the flanks and lower belly. Like other wheatears, it has a distinctive tail pattern with a black feathers on the base and centre of the tail forming an inverted T against the otherwise white rump.

The juvenile has a brown cap and cheeks, and the breast band is weak and diffuse. However, the breast band, larger size, and white at the base of the outer tail feathers distinguish it from the migrant northern wheatear, which is rare over most of the capped wheatear's range.

The capped wheatear's song is a loud melodic warble interspersed with slurred chattering, and it has a chik-chik alarm call. It is monogamous and builds a nest of straw, grass, and leaves in a hole in the ground or a termite mound. It may use man-made drainage pipes if available. Typically three or four, sometimes more, eggs are laid.

This solitary species feeds on insects, especially ants. Like other wheatears, it perches on mounds and hops over the short grass, or flies low over the ground.

Desert wheatear

The desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) is a wheatear, a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae). It is a migratory insectivorous species, 14.5 to 15 cm (5.7 to 5.9 in) in length. Both western and eastern forms of the desert wheatear are rare vagrants to western Europe. The western desert wheatear breeds in the Sahara and the northern Arabian peninsula. The eastern race is found in the semi-deserts of central Asia and in winter in Pakistan and northeast Africa.

The plumage of the upper parts of the male in summer is buff. The underparts are white with a buff tinge on the breast. The black on the face and throat extends to the shoulders, and there is distinct white superciliary stripe. The female is greyer above and buffer below and has no black on the throat, and in the winter plumage the black on the throat of the male is partially obscured by the white tips of the feathers. A distinguishing characteristic, in both sexes of all ages, is that the entire tail is black to the level of the upper tail-coverts.

The desert wheatear feeds largely on insects which it picks up off the ground. It breeds in the spring when a clutch of usually four pale blue, slightly speckled eggs is laid in a well-concealed nest made of grasses, mosses and stems.

Finsch's wheatear

Finsch's wheatear (Oenanthe finschii) is a wheatear, a small insectivorous passerine that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family, Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher of the family Muscicapidae.

This 15–16 cm long bird breeds in semi-desert and stony hillsides from Turkey east to Afghanistan and western Pakistan. It is a short-distance migrant, wintering in Egypt, Cyprus and the Greater Middle East. The nest is built in a rock crevice, and 4-5 eggs is the normal clutch.

In summer the male Finsch's wheatear is a white and black bird. The white crown, central back and belly contrast with the black face, throat and wings. The tail and rump are white, with an inverted black T giving a pattern like black-eared wheatear, but with a uniformly wide terminal band.

The female is brown-grey above, becoming dirty white below. The tail pattern is similar to the male's.

Finsch's wheatear feeds mainly on insects. Its call is a whistled tsit, and the song is a mix of clear notes with whistles and crackling.

The common name and scientific name commemorate the German ethnographer, naturalist and colonial explorer Friedrich Hermann Otto Finsch (8 August 1839 - 31 January 1917, Braunschweig).

Heuglin's wheatear

Heuglin's wheatear (Oenanthe heuglini) is a small passerine bird in the wheatear genus Oenanthe. It occurs in a band across Africa to the south of the Sahara.

Hooded wheatear

The hooded wheatear (Oenanthe monacha) is a wheatear, a small insectivorous passerine that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae.

This 15.5–17 cm long bird is a resident breeder in unvegetated desert from eastern Egypt through the Arabian peninsula used to be in UAE and Oman a scarce breeder in Hajar mountains to Iran and Pakistan. It occurs annually in Cyprus on passage. The nest is built in a rock crevice, and 3-6 eggs is the normal clutch.

In summer the male hooded wheatear is a white and black bird. The white crown and belly contrast with the black face, back and throat. The tail and rump are white with black central tail feathers.

The female is brown, becoming somewhat paler below. The tail pattern is similar to the male's, but the ground colour is buff rather than white.

Hooded wheatear feeds on insects, often taken in the air. Its call is a whistled vit, and the song is a harsh chattering.

Hume's wheatear

Hume's wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is found in Afghanistan, Bahrain, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The name commemorates the British naturalist Allan Octavian Hume, who worked in India.

Isabelline wheatear

The isabelline wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina) is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher in the family Muscicapidae. It is a migratory insectivorous bird. Its habitat is steppe and open countryside and it breeds in southern Russia and central Asia to northern Pakistan, wintering in Africa and northwestern India. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

In colouring it resembles a female northern wheatear but it is larger at 15–16.5 centimetres (5.9–6.5 in) in length, more upright and more tawny in colour, and has more black on its tail. The term isabelline refers to the parchment-like colouration. The axillaries and underwing coverts are white, whereas in the commoner bird they are mottled with grey. The sexes are similar.

Kurdish wheatear

The Kurdish wheatear (Oenanthe xanthoprymna), also known as the Kurdistan wheatear, the chestnut-rumped wheatear or the red-rumped wheatear, is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. The red-tailed wheatear (O. chrysopygia) was formerly considered a subspecies of this bird but is now often regarded as a separate species. The two may intergrade in Iran ("O. x. cummingi") but it is also possible that the rather differently coloured cummingi is in fact a one-year-old O. xanthoprymna with intermediate plumage.

Mountain wheatear

The mountain wheatear or mountain chat (Myrmecocichla monticola) is a small insectivorous passerine bird that is endemic to southwestern Africa.

Mourning wheatear

The mourning wheatear (Oenanthe lugens) is a bird, one of 14 species of wheatear found in northern Africa and the Middle East. It is a small passerine in a group formerly classed as members of the thrush family Turdidae, but now more generally considered to be part of the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae.

The mourning wheatear was first described by Martin Lichtenstein in 1823. It is found in semi-desert areas in North Africa and the Middle East. It is sexually dimorphic with the females sporting more subtle plumage.

An intriguing dark morph of the mourning wheatear (the so-called basalt wheatear) occurs in the basalt desert of northeast Jordan.

The north African subspecies halophila, considered by some to be a separate species, western mourning wheatear, occurs from Morocco east to western Egypt. The Egyptian populations are discussed in Baha El Din and Baha El Din (2000). These birds differ from typical halophila in exhibiting less sexual dimorphism, and displaying a prominent white wingbar, and thus are closer to the nominate race.

Panov (Wheatears of Palearctic, 2005) discusses the latest taxonomy for the mourning wheatear superspecies. The mourning wheatear is split from Abyssinian wheatear (Oenanthe lugubris), which is the species found south of the Sahara.

It has been recorded in the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Northern wheatear

The northern wheatear or wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae. It is the most widespread member of the wheatear genus Oenanthe in Europe and Asia.

The northern wheatear is a migratory insectivorous species breeding in open stony country in Europe and Asia with footholds in northeastern Canada and Greenland as well as in northwestern Canada and Alaska. It nests in rock crevices and rabbit burrows. All birds spend most of their winter in Africa.

Pied wheatear

The pied wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) is a wheatear, a small insectivorous passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher (family Muscicapidae). This migratory central Asiatic wheatear occurs from the extreme southeast of Europe to China, and has been found wintering in India and northeastern Africa. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

The male is a boldly marked white-and-black bird. The white crown tinged with brown contrasts with the black face and throat and white rump. The female is browner, and the head is washed with sandy buff. Females are darker than the females of the northern wheatear, look smaller and show less white on the rump. The tail feathers are white with characteristic black markings, which form an inverted black "T" pattern that resembles the tail of the black-eared wheatear. This 14 centimetres (5.5 in) bird nests in open, stony, sparsely vegetated regions, laying four to six eggs in a hole, under a stone or in a rock crevice. The pied wheatear primarily eats insects but will also take seeds.

Red-rumped wheatear

The red-rumped wheatear or buff-rumped wheatear (Oenanthe moesta) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is found in North Africa and the Middle East.

Red-tailed wheatear

The red-tailed wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia), also known as the rusty-tailed wheatear, Persian wheatear or Afghan wheatear, is a small passerine bird breeding in mountainous areas of south-west and central Asia. It belongs to the wheatear genus Oenanthe which was formerly placed in the thrush family Turdidae but is now in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae. The red-tailed wheatear used to be considered a subspecies of the Kurdish wheatear (O. xanthoprymna) but is now often regarded as a separate species.

USS Wheatear (AM-390)

USS Wheatear (AM-390) was an Auk-class minesweeper acquired by the United States Navy for the dangerous task of removing mines from minefields laid in the water to prevent ships from passing.

Wheatear was named after the wheatear, a small northern bird related to the stonechat and whinchat.

Wheatear was laid down on 29 May 1944 at Cleveland, Ohio, by the American Ship Building Company; launched on 21 April 1945; sponsored by Mrs. H. P. Isham; and commissioned on 3 October 1945, Lt. Comdr. George M. Estep, USNR, in command.

Variable wheatear

The variable wheatear (Oenanthe picata) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is found in Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

Its natural habitat is hot deserts.

White-crowned wheatear

The white-crowned wheatear, or white-crowned black wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga) is a wheatear, a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae.

This large 17–18 cm long wheatear breeds in stony deserts from the Sahara and Arabia across to Iraq. It is largely resident but has occurred as a rare vagrant to western Europe as far away as Great Britain. It nests in crevices in rocks or walls laying 3-5 eggs.

Although most wheatear species have distinctive male and female plumages, adults of both sexes of this species are black except for a white rump and mainly white tail. Full adults have a white crown, not shown by young birds.

The similar black wheatear, Oenanthe leucura, also breeds in the western part of the white-crowned wheatear's range, but the latter has a black inverted T on its white tail, whereas white-crowned has only a black centre to its tail. The black wheatear never has a white crown.

This species mainly eats insects. This wheatear has a loud song, more varied than most of its relatives and often including mimicry.

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