Tuesday 18 June
Red-tailed wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
Red-tailed wheatear fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Red-tailed wheatear description
A small territorial songbird, the red-tailed wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) has rather drab plumage despite its colourful name. The male red-tailed wheatear is indistinguishable from the female, with greyish-brown plumage on the crown and back. The tail has a black band at the end and central black feathers, forming a distinctive T-shaped marking (3). The name ‘red-tailed wheatear’ comes from the rust-tinged tail, and the ear-coverts, chin and breast are also rusty red. This species has black legs and a black bill (2) (3).
Characteristically tame, the red-tailed wheatear has an uncomplicated song of short simple phrases separated by short pauses (3) (4). The song of the male is usually slow and serene, whereas the female may give a distinguishing ‘snore’ in antagonistic situations. The male will usually have around three different posts throughout its territory from which it sings whilst the female is feeding or nesting (2).
- Also known as
- Afghan wheatear, rufous-rumped wheatear, rufous-tailed wheatear, rusty-tailed wheatear.
- Dromolaea chrysopygia. Top
BirdLife International - Red-tailed wheatear:
- The circle of small feathers covering the ear opening of a bird. Also called auriculars.
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- Of the stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
- Small loose rock debris covering a slope.
- Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.
- An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
- 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. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Christison, A.F.P. and Ticehurst, C.B. (1942) Some additional notes on the distribution of the avifauna of northern Baluchistan. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 43: 478-487.
BirdLife International (November, 2010)
- Ali, S. and Ripley, S.D. (1973) Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 9: Robins to Wagtails. University Oxford Press, Oxford.
- Loskot V.M. and Petrusenko A.A. (1974) On nutrition of the Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe xanthoprymna Hempr. et Her.) in Badakhshan. Vestnik zoologii, 5: 59-65.
- Erard, C. and Etchecopar, R.D. (1970) Some notes on the birds of Angola. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club, 90: 158-161.
- Helbig, A. J. (1984) Bemerkenswerte ornithologische beobachtungen in der Turkei im sommer 1981. Bonner Zoologische Beiträge, 35 (1-3): 57-69.
- Panow, E.N. (1974) Die Steinschmätzer der nördlichen Paläarktis. Gattung Oenanthe. Die Neue Brehm-Bücherei 482, Ziemsen, Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Red-tailed wheatear biology
The red-tailed wheatear feeds primarily on insects, surviving mainly on a diet of ants, beetles and larval moths and butterflies (2). It also takes a variety of other insects, from locusts to solitary wasps, and has even been recorded taking a small lizard. Plant material such as seeds, fruits and the leaves and stems of grasses also sometimes form part of its diet (3).
Food is obtained using a variety of methods, but the red-tailed wheatear will commonly use a ‘dash-and-jab’ technique, where the bird will launch an attack on prey on the ground from an elevated perch (2). This species is also known to pluck prey off vegetation, or dig food such as beetle larvae from the ground with its bill. A technique known as ‘wing-flashing’, where the bird flushes insects from underneath rocks by beating its wings and calling, is also sometimes used (7).
During the breeding season, the red-tailed wheatear is generally solitary, but when breeding it usually forms monogamous pairs (2) (8). Breeding usually starts between April and June, but in eastern Turkey breeding can be quite late, occurring between June and August (9). The red-tailed wheatear nests in rock crevices or among stones, creating loosely constructed shallow cups of grass for the nest. The nest is lined with fine fibres stripped from plant stems, and rests on a thick base comprised of small, flat stones (2). The eggs of the red-tailed wheatear are very pale blue with sparse, light red-brown spotting (3). The clutch of 4 to 6 eggs is usually incubated for around 13 days, and both of the adults feed the nestlings (8) (10).Top
Red-tailed wheatear range
The red-tailed wheatear has a large range and is native to fourteen countries from Saudi Arabia to Oman (5). During the breeding season the red-tailed wheatear occurs in northeast Turkey, Armenia, northern Iran, southeast Tajikistan, Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Outside the breeding season, the red-tailed wheatear is found across the Arabian Peninsula, as well as in southern Iraq, Iran, eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwest India (2) (3).Top
Red-tailed wheatear habitat
The red-tailed wheatear inhabits arid upland mountainous regions with steep, bare terrain. It is commonly found on boulder-strewn hillsides, on rocky outcrops that provide good cover from predators and excellent song posts. The red-tailed wheatear breeds in areas with convenient burrows, fissures and scree for nesting or taking cover, and has even been known to take cover in gerbil holes (2) (6). This species occurs at elevations of 2,500 to 4,000 metres (2).
In winter the red-tailed wheatear generally favours much flatter areas with gentle sloping ground (2).Top
Red-tailed wheatear status
The red-tailed wheatear is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Red-tailed wheatear threats
The red-tailed wheatear is not currently known to be facing any major threats, and its population is thought to be stable (5).Top
Red-tailed wheatear conservation
There are no known conservation measures currently targeting the red-tailed wheatear. However, 391 sites have been identified as ‘Important Bird Areas’ (IBAs) in the Middle East, and conservation programmes to protect the habitats of more endangered birds in these areas may indirectly benefit the red-tailed wheatear (5).Top
Find out more
More information on the red-tailed wheatear:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.