Fun Desert Wheatear Facts For Kids

Ogrima Mukherjee
Jan 05, 2023 By Ogrima Mukherjee
Originally Published on Sep 10, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Desert wheatear facts tell us that it is a migratory bird.

The scientific name of desert wheatear is Oenanthe deserti, and it is a migratory passerine bird belonging to the Muscicapidae family. It breeds in Africa and Central Asia and migrates to India, the Arabian peninsula, and Pakistan. It is a rare sight in countries of Europe like Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Arid areas like a desert or semi-desert are its natural habitat. Its diet includes insects, small invertebrates, and seeds.

Its body and wings are predominantly a sandy buff color, and its coverts are black, with white tips. The male is easily distinguishable by his black face. The conservation status of this species is listed as Least Concern in the Red List.

If you like reading about the desert wheatear, check out interesting facts about the golden-crowned sparrow and the long-tailed tit!

Desert Wheatear Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a desert wheatear?

The desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) belongs to the Oenanthe genus of the Muscicapidae family and Passeriformes order.

What class of animal does a desert wheatear belong to?

They belong to the class of bird, Aves.

How many desert wheatears are there in the world?

Their population size is unknown. There are more than 10,000 mature individuals globally.

Where does a desert wheatear live?

The population distribution of the desert wheatear is broadly divided into two types depending on their geographical location. The eastern type breeds Central Asia, the Middle East, the South Caucasus, and northwestern Mongolia. The western type breeds in North Africa. This migratory bird is an occasional vagrant to Europe.

What is a desert wheatear's habitat?

As the name suggests, the desert wheatear lives in an arid area like a desert or semi-desert. They are also found in barren open countrysides, steppes, deserts, semi-arid plains, saltpans, dried-up river beds, and rocky wasteland. They can be found at altitudes of up to 11,500 ft (3,505.2 m).

Who do desert wheatears live with?

They are solitary foragers and can be seen in pairs in the breeding season.

How long does a desert wheatear live?

Their exact lifespan is not known. The lifespan of wheatears, in general, is one to five years, and the average life span is two years.

How do they reproduce?

Their breeding season starts in late April or May. The nest is built with grass, moss, stems, and small feathers on rocky hillsides, steppes, sandy plains, and hollows under rocks concealed by bushes and other vegetation. A clutch of four, rarely five, eggs are laid.

The eggs are pale blue, with small rust-colored spots concentrated towards the wider end. They are 0.8 by 0.6 in (20.1 by 15 mm). The female incubates the eggs, and both sexes help care for the young.

What is their conservation status?

The desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List. There are more than 10,000 individuals globally, and their numbers have seen a decrease of less than 10% in the last three generations or 10 years.

Desert Wheatear Fun Facts

What do desert wheatears look like?

The adult desert wheatear male's head and nape are buff-colored with gray tipped feathers. The rump and upper tail-coverts are pale buffs. A third of the desert wheatear tail feathers are white from the base, and the rest is black with a whitish tip.

Chin, throat, lores, and ear coverts are black with white tips. The breast is sandy-buff, and the belly and under tail coverts are a creamy-white. The beak and legs are black and irises dark brown.

The axillaries and under wing-coverts are black with white tips. The females are similar.

The female's rump and upper tail-coverts are sandy browns, and the chin, throat, and lores are pale buff. The juvenile resembles the adult female, but the feathers on the upper parts of the body have pale centers and brown tips, giving them a speckled appearance. They molt annually in the late summer.

Desert wheatears have a wingspan of 10.2 in (26 cm).

How cute are they?

They are very cute. They are small in size, and during winters, the feathers are puffed up to combat the cold, making them look very fluffy and soft.

How do they communicate?

Desert wheaters communicate using their voices and flight displays. Flight displays are used to warn enemies and during courtship before the birds mate. The male's song starts with short whistles and ends with a mellow rolling note. Their calls are dry and chattery.

How big is a desert wheatear?

The length of a desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) is 5.9 in (15 cm), and its wingspan is 10.2 in (26 cm). It is a fourth of a northern pintail in length and the same size as western wood pewee.

How fast can a desert wheatear move?

The desert wheatear can move very fast as it preys on insects. They have a short reaction time and high flight speed, but their exact speed is unknown. It also has a lot of stamina as it can fly at a length when it is migrating.

How much does a desert wheatear weigh?

These light birds, like most birds of the Passeriformes order; weigh 0.5-1.2 oz (15-34 g), the same as a sociable weaver.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for the sexes. They are referred to as male desert wheatear or female desert wheatear. The two species are sexually dimorphic and thus can be distinguished visually.

What would you call a baby desert wheatear?

There are no specific names for a baby desert wheatear. Young birds are generally referred to as juveniles, chicks, or hatchlings.

What do they eat?

Its diet has insects like ants, beetles, caterpillars, flies, and larvae, small invertebrates, and occasionally seeds. It usually perches on a branch and swoops down to catch an insect, but it can also catch flying insects.

Are they dangerous?

No, they are not dangerous and cannot harm humans. They are not very predatory either, and they don't feed on other bird species.

Would they make a good pet?

They would not make good pets as they are wildly migratory and need to travel during the winter. It will be cruel to keep them in a cage and deny them the instinct.

Did you know...

The desert wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) has four recognized subspecies. The scientific names are; Oenanthe deserti deserti, Oenanthe deserti atrogularis, Oenanthe deserti homochroa, and Oenanthe deserti oreophila.

The genus name Oenanthe is derived from Ancient Greek words which mean 'wine' and 'flower.' It refers to the northern wheatear returning to Greece in the spring just as the grapevines bloom. The species name deserti is Latin for 'desert.'

The name 'Wheatear' is not related to wheat or ear. Instead, it is a 16th-century linguistic corruption of 'white' and 'arse' (rear), referring to the distinctive white rump found in the wheatear species.

There are estimated to be 220-2,200 mature individuals in the European population. For the desert wheatear, London (United Kingdom) and Ireland have a low count. It is considered a rare sight in British wildlife habitat.

Do desert wheatears migrate?

Yes, these birds migrate south from their respective breeding distribution range before winter and return before spring. The eastern race breeds Central Asia, the Middle East, the South Caucasus, and northwestern Mongolia.

This race of wheatears migrates southward to northeastern Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, and Pakistan to overwinter. The western race breeds in North Africa.

This population is mainly resident; in Morocco, birds living in the south and east region migrate while the birds in the southwest do not. It is not commonly found in Europe and British land.

The desert wheatear's range

This wheatear bird has an extensive range of breeding ranges; nearly 3.9 million sq mi (10 million sq km). It breeds in parts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. It travels south to northern and western India, Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, and Pakistan in the winter.

Dryland birds like the desert wheatear, which used to visit the arid regions in India during the winter, have begun vising wet states like Kerala. This growing trend has been observed for over 10 years and has been surprising for bird watchers in the state.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these owl facts and hooded pitohui facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable desert wheatear coloring pages.


Second image by Dr. Raju Kasambe.

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Written by Ogrima Mukherjee

Bachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science

Ogrima Mukherjee picture

Ogrima MukherjeeBachelor of Technology specializing in Computer Science

Ogrima brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to her craft. With a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from GITAM University, she possesses a strong foundation in technology. However, her keen interest in writing has allowed her to leverage her skills and passion to create high-quality content in various niches. Ogrima's extensive experience in content writing and social media copywriting showcases her versatility and adaptability as a writer. Her ability to create engaging and well-researched articles tailored specifically for children sets her apart.

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