As its name suggests, the desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) is a desert-dwelling bird, with largely sandy-brown plumage which matches well with its arid habitat. During the breeding season, the male desert wheatear has a contrasting black face and throat, black wings and an almost all-black tail, while the lower back and rump are creamy white, and there are whitish streaks above the eyes and on the shoulders (2) (3) (4) (5). The beak and legs are black (2) (4). Outside of the breeding season, the male has a more greyish face (2). The female desert wheatear is duller than the male, with brownish rather than black markings (2) (4), while the juvenile is similar to the female, but has buff spotting above and fine brown scaling on the breast (2). The song of the male desert wheatear, given in flight or from the ground, is described as a distinctive series of short, variable phrases of slightly mournful-sounding whistles, interspersed with grating churrs and dry or twittering trills (2) (3). The female also occasionally sings, with more uniform phrases. The calls of this species also include a whistled swiii, a hard tuk and a rolling chrr (2).
The desert warbler is sometimes divided into a number of subspecies, including Oenanthe deserti deserti, Oenanthe deserti homochroa, Oenanthe deserti oreophila and Oenanthe deserti atrogularis, which vary slightly in size and colouration (2) (3) (4). The male desert wheatear resembles the related black-eared wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica), but is distinguished by a black line linking the black of the wings and throat, a blacker tail and a less distinct white line above the eye (3) (5). Female and juvenile desert wheatears closely resemble the female Isabelline wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina), but are smaller, and have a black wing lining and a blacker tail (4) (5).
- Traquet du désert.
- Length: 14 - 15 cm (2)
- 15 - 34 g (2)