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Wheatear

Oenanthe oenanthe

Clochrán

Status: Widespread summer visitor to uplands and scrubland throughout Ireland, from mid-March to early-October. Common passage migrant to all coasts in spring and autumn.

Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland due to a decline in the breeding population. The European population is currently assessed as Declining, due to a moderate ongoing decline in the population.

Identification: Between Robin and Song Thrush in size. In all plumages, has a very obvious tail pattern of a broad lack stripe at the tip with another extending towards the white rump. The whole effect is of a black "T".

Adult summer male Wheatears have a pale grey crown, nape and back, as well as a broad black stripe extending from the beak through the eye to the neck.  Also has a thin white supercilium. The throat and top of the breast are beige-brown, varying in extent and intensity, while the rest of the underparts are white. The wings are all black.

Autumn males have the grey on the crown and back replaced with pale brown, while the black "eye-mask" is reduced in intensity and may be completely absent (cf first-winter and autumn female).

Adult summer females resemble summer males, but lack the black "eye-mask", this being a pale brown instead. The white supercilium also tends to be less obvious.

Autumn females are very similar to autumn male Wheatears, but never show the black "eye-mask".

Juveniles have a streaked grey head and back, as well as a finely barred breast. The wings are brown. This plumage is lost a few weeks after fledging.

First-winter Wheatears are nearly inseperable from autumn females.

Call: Main calls heard are a soft whistle "hiit" and a harder "chack". The song is quick, melodic whistle, frequently including the "hiit" call note. May perform a short song-flight.

Diet: Insects and other invertebrates.

Breeding: Breeds in a variety of habitats, typically with some areas of exposed rock and short vegetation, such as along rocky coasts, pasture with stone walls and bogs in uplands.

Wintering: Winters in southern Africa. Has one of the longest migration routes of any songbird. Birds breeding in north-eastern Canada fly almost non-stop across the northern Atlantic to Iberia and North Africa.

Where to See: Widespread, especially in the west of Ireland. A common migrant throughout Ireland in spring and autumn, even in the Midlands.

Monitored by: Countryside Bird Survey and BirdTrack.

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