[order] Passeriformes | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe deserti | [UK] Desert Wheatear | [FR] Traquet du désert | [DE] Wüstensteinschmatzer | [ES] Collalba desértica | [IT] Monachella del deserto | [NL] Woestijntapuit

Woestijntapuit determination

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Raher small, round-headed, compact wheatear. All-black tail diagnostic. Male distinguished by black face and throat and white inner wing-coverts, female by more uniform appearance than congeners. Sexes markedly dissimilar in spring, less so in autumn.

In lower middle latitudes, mainly continental, warm and arid, in steppe, Mediterranean, and desert Zones, on wide variety of terrain from sea-level to high plateaux and even mountain summits extralimitally in Asia. In North Africa, occurs on Atlantic coast and on degraded steppe at edge of Sahara. Occupying coastal zone and preferring heath-type and shrubby habitat with tamarisk, also river beds. Prefers stony or sandy soils, avoiding gravel tracts and pure desert, even where rich in insects, and bare sand-dunes.

Oenanthe deserti breeds in Azerbaijan and Turkey, with Europe accounting for a tiny proportion of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very small (as few as 110 pairs), and its trend between 1970-1990 was unknown. The species declined in Turkey during 1990-2000, but was stable in Azerbaijan, and probably remained stable overall. Although the size of the European population could make it susceptible to the risks affecting small populations, it is marginal to a much larger non-European population.

Diet predominantly insects, particularly ants, beetles, and larvae, occasionally spiders, worms, small lizards, and seeds. Takes food mainly from bare ground, sometimes from low vegetation or in flight like flycatcher.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 220-2,200 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Starts March-May in Algeria and Tunisia, April-May in Middle East, late April in Kazakhstan. Nest site is built in a hole in ground, or among rocks, often in old rodent burrow. Nest is a bulky cup of grass, dead leaves, and roots, lined with hair, feathers, and wool. Clutch 4-5 eggs, incubation 13-14 days tended to by female only.

Most populations migratory, some only partially. Winters in Africa south to Sahel zone, in south-west Asia and east to central India, and in eastern Himalayas. Frequent vagrant over large area north to Sweden, west to Canary Islands, and east to Kuril Islands (eastern Russia). Timing of movements and routes taken poorly known.