Variable wheatear

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Variable wheatear
Variable wheatear-Oenanthe picata.jpeg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Muscicapidae
Genus: Oenanthe
Species: O. picata
Binomial name
Oenanthe picata
(Blyth, 1847)

The variable wheatear (Oenanthe picata) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is found in Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

Its natural habitat is hot deserts.



The Variable Wheatear Oenanthe picata (Muscicapidae: Passeriformes) is a bird of arid and semi-arid region, and is locally abundant in barren rocky areas, sand dunes with scrub vegetation, cultivation, ravines, outside villages and nomadic encampments.[2]

It is polymorphic and has three distinct morphs.

1. Black-bellied phase ('opistholeuca'). Male (adult). Entirely jet black except rump, under tail-coverts, base and sides of tail which are white; central rectrices and terminal band of tail black. Female has black parts replaced by sooty black.


2. White-bellied phase ('picata') Male (adult). Like the preceding but belly white. Female similar to male but black parts replaced by greyish brown; belly more buffish.


3. White-crowned phase ('capistrata'). Male (adult). Like picata, with white belly and black throat, but crown and nape white. Female similar to male but black parts and crown earthy brown; belly more buffish.

The geographical dominance of the three types of females does not exactly correspond to the dominances of the three colour phases of the males, but in their wintering grounds there is some corresponding separation. [3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This species is found in NE & SE Iran and Turkmenistan E to W Tien Shan, Pamirs, and N & W Pakistan; non-breeding SW Asia.[4] Common and generally distributed in winter in Pakistan and northwestern India southeast to Delhi, central Madhya Pradesh and northern Maharashtra (Khandesh). Arrives on breeding grounds in March (Baluchistan) or mid April (Chitral), remains till September. May be seen in winter quarters from the beginning of August (Karachi dist) till the end of March.[3]

In winter frequents stony semi-desert, and desert with sparsely scrubbed sand dunes, cultivation, ravines, outskirts of villages and nomadic encampments, cattle corrals, etc.; usually from almost sea level to c. 1200 m, but has been observed also at 2700 m in deep snow! [3]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Oenanthe picata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Sanjay Thakur; Rajiv Pandit & Anil Mahabal (2015). "First record of Variable Wheatear Oenanthe picata (Aves: Passeriformes: Muscicapidae) from Osmanabad District and range extension to southeastern Maharashtra, India". Journal of Threatened Taxa. 7 (3): 7042–7043. doi:10.11609/jott.o4265.7042-3. 
  3. ^ a b c Salim Ali & S Dillon Ripley (1998). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 9 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 51–53. 
  4. ^ Collar, N. (2016). Variable Wheatear (Oenanthe picata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 31 July 2016)