Hooded wheatear (Oenanthe monacha)

French: Traquet à capuchon
GenusOenanthe (1)
SizeLength: 17.5 cm (2)
Wingspan: 29.5 - 30.5 cm (3)
Weight18 - 23 g (2)

The hooded wheatear is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The hooded wheatear (Oenanthe monacha) is named for the distinctive white plumage on the top of the head and the back of neck, which resembles a hood (3). It also has a long beak, a large head and short legs (2).

The male and the female hooded wheatear differ significantly in appearance. The male is identified by its bold black and white plumage pattern, and its white tail with a central black line. In contrast, the female hooded wheatear has a pale sandy-brown body and wings (3), and whitish-grey underparts (4). The female’s tail is warm buff with black central feathers (5).

The juvenile hooded wheatear is similar in appearance to the adult female (3), but is duller in colour and is generally a spotted cream-buff (6).

Usually a very quiet bird, only the male hooded wheatear sings, using a medley of whistles and thrush-like notes (3). However, the female may be heard giving an alarm call, described as a repeated ‘wit wit’ (6).

The range of the hooded wheatear extends from Egypt, east through the Middle East, to Pakistan (2) (7).

The hooded wheatear inhabits desolate, arid desert regions, where bare rocky hills provide suitable cavities in which to build a nest (6).

It is commonly seen near wide, dry riverbeds with rocks and bushes, but also near quarries and buildings in fields and mountains. It occurs at elevations from sea-level to around 1,400 metres (2).

Typically a solitary bird, except during the breeding season (6), the hooded wheatear is shy and wary, and is known to dive for cover at the slightest alarm (6).

The diet of the hooded wheatear is mainly composed of a large variety of invertebrates, such as grasshoppers, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies, moths, wasps, bees and spiders (2). It may pursue flying insects while in flight, flying up to 100 metres high above the ground (2), or scan the ground from an elevated perch before attacking ground-dwelling insect prey (3). The hooded wheatear may also feed on ticks, plucked from the skin of camels when living next to human settlements. It also supplements its diet with seeds (2).

The hooded wheatear is a monogamous bird that typically breeds between March and June, although the exact timing of breeding can vary depending on the location (2). The nest of the hooded wheatear is a small, shallow cup made of straw and weeds and is lined with soft material, such as wool and feathers (3), and is typically placed three metres off the ground (2). The female hooded wheatear usually lays three to five eggs (2), which are pale sky-blue with tiny rust-coloured spots (3). The eggs are incubated for 14 to 15 days and, after hatching, the chicks stay in the nest for 14 to 15 days before they fledge (3). Both the male and the female feed the young about three to seven times a day (6).

During the breeding season and in winter, the hooded wheatear defends a large territory. These territories have been recorded measuring around one square kilometre in Iran or several kilometres in Israel, but the territory boundaries are not usually strongly defined (2) (6). In territorial disputes, the hooded wheatear uses its defence call which sounds like a harsh ‘zack’ (6).

The hooded wheatear is not currently known to be facing any major threats.

Due to its large range, stable population and lack of major threats (7), there are currently no conservation measures in place for this species.

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10 : Cuckoo-shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. (1998) The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Hollom, P.A.D., Porter, R.F., Christensen, S. and Willis, I. (1988) Birds of the Middle East and North Africa: A Companion Guide. T&AD Poyser, London.
  5. Redman, N., Stevenson, T. and Fanshawe, J. (2009) Birds of the Horn of Africa. Christopher Helm, London.
  6. Cramp, S. (1988) Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume V. Tyrant Flycatchers to Thrushes.OxfordUniversity Press, Oxford.
  7. BirdLife International (November, 2011)