[order] Passeriformes | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Oenanthe isabellina | [UK] Isabelline Wheatear | [FR] Traquet isabelle | [DE] Isabellsteinschmätzer | [ES] Collalba isabel | [IT] Culbianco isabellino | [NL] Isabeltapuit

Isabeltapuit determination

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Largest wheatear in west Palearctic, with long, strong bill, long, evenly domed head, rather long body often held markedly upright, large wings, broad tail, and long strong legs.Oenanthe , with less contrast between upperparts and underparts than even females of most other species. Essentially isabelline-brown above and buff-white below, marked only by black lores in male, darker wings, broad white rump, and wide black band on tail. In flight, wings show diagnostic pattern of dark rim above and below, with wholly pale under wing coverts. Sexes closely similar, little seasonal variation.

Breeds in west Palearctic in lower middle and middle continental latitudes on plains and plateaux up to 3500 m in warm arid climate. Prefers level or gently sloping terrain, open but with sufficient isolated shrubs or large rock, and with clay or sandy soil but not loose sand or surface gravel. Found locally on river banks with rich grass cover, and even, in passing, on mown lawns, but prefers very short, sparse vegetation with ample bare patches. Accordingly, largely a steppe and steppe-desert bird, dependent on opportunities for nesting in burrows, but also occurs in fores-steppe.

Oenanthe isabellina is a widespread summer visitor to south-eastern Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large (>2,100,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although there were declines in Russia during 1990-2000, the stronghold population in Turkey was stable, and trends were stable or increasing across the rest of its European range. The species hence remained stable overall.

Diet mainly invertebrates, ants and beetles particularly important. Usually forages by making quick dashes along ground after prey. Sometimes uses perch to watch for prey, drops down to ground, and eats item before flying up to same or new perch. Always uses firm perch. Digs in soil with bill to extract invertebrates, especially in early spring when few on surface.

This species has a large global range; the total size has not yet been quantified, but the Extent of Occurrence in Africa alone is estimated to be 6,800,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 4,200,000-13,000,000 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]

End of March in Transcaspia, early June in steppes between Volga and Ural. Nest site is normally situated in burrow of rodent or sometimes bee-eater, occasionally in natural hole or crevice in ground or rock. Nest is a bulky cup of dried grass, roots, and hair, lined with hair, wool, and feathers. 5-6 eggs incubated by female for about 12 days.

Migratory. Winters up to northern edge of Sahel zone of Africa, from east to west, south in east to northern Tanzania; also in Egypt and Middle East, and in Pakistan and north-west India. Migration protracted; signs of movement as early as late January and late July, but some birds remain in wintering areas furthest west until mid-March, and in breeding areas furthest east until mid-October. Passage more conspicuous in spring than in autumn in Mediterranean areas furthest west. Passage largely nocturnal and on broad front, probably mainly in a WSW or south-west direction in autumn.