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Birds Guide


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Northern Wheatear (male)
Northern Wheatear (male)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Muscicapidae
Genus: Oenanthe
Vieillot, 1816
See text.
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear

The wheatears, genus Oenanthe, were formerly considered to be members of the thrush family Turdidae. They are more commonly now 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.

They are terrestrial insectivorous passerine birds of open, often dry, country . They often nest in rock crevices or disused burrows.

Northern species are long-distance migrants, wintering in Africa.

Wheatears are typically larger than the European Robin. 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.

The wheatear species are:

  • Northern Wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe
    Isabelline Wheatear, Oenanthe isabellina
    Desert Wheatear, Oenanthe deserti
    Black-eared Wheatear, Oenanthe hispanica
    Pied Wheatear, Oenanthe pleschanka
    Cyprus Wheatear, Oenanthe cypriaca
    Finsch's Wheatear, Oenanthe finscii
    Mourning Wheatear, Oenanthe lugens
    Hooded Wheatear, Oenanthe monacha
    White-crowned Wheatear, Oenanthe leucopyga
    Black Wheatear, Oenanthe leucura
    Persian Wheatear or Red-tailed Wheatear, Oenanthe xanthoprymna
    Red-rumped Wheatear, Oenanthe moesta
    Hume's Wheatear, Oenanthe alboniger
    Mountain Wheatear, Oenanthe monticola
    Somali Wheatear, Oenanthe phillipsi
    Variable Wheatear, Oenanthe picata
    Capped Wheatear, Oenanthe pileata
    Red-breasted Wheatear, Oenanthe bottae
    Heuglin's Wheatear, Oenanthe heuglini

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