|Northern wheatear (male)|
The wheatears // are passerine birds of the genus Oenanthe. They were formerly considered to be members of the thrush family, Turdidae, but are now more commonly placed in the flycatcher family, Muscicapidae. This is an Old World group, but the northern wheatear has established a foothold in eastern Canada and Greenland and in western Canada and Alaska.
The name "wheatear" is not derived from "wheat" or any sense of "ear", but is a 16th-century linguistic corruption of "white" and "arse", referring to the prominent white rump found in most species.
Oenanthe is also the name of a plant genus, the water dropworts, and is derived from the Greek oenos (οίνος) "wine" and anthos (ανθός) "flower". In the case of the plant genus, it refers to the wine-like scent of the flowers. In the case of the wheatear, it refers to the northern wheatear's return to Greece in the spring just as the grapevines blossom.
This genus formerly included fewer species. Molecular phylogenetic studies of birds in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae, found that the genus Cercomela was polyphyletic with five species, including the type species C. melanura, phylogenetically nested within the genus Oenanthe. This implied that Cercomela and Oenanthe were synonyms. The type species for Oenanthe, (O. leucopyga, Vieillot, 1816) is earlier than the type for Cercomela (C. melanura, Bonaparte, 1856) and has taxonomic priority making Cercomela a junior synonym.
Most species have characteristic black and white or red and white markings on their rumps or their long tails. Most species are strongly sexually dimorphic; only the male has the striking plumage patterns characteristic of the genus, though the females share the white or red rump patches.
The genus contains 28 species. Of these, 5 were formerly assigned to Cercomela:
- Northern wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe
- Capped wheatear, Oenanthe pileata
- Red-breasted wheatear, Oenanthe bottae
- Heuglin's wheatear, Oenanthe heuglini
- Isabelline wheatear, Oenanthe isabellina
- Hooded wheatear, Oenanthe monacha
- Desert wheatear, Oenanthe deserti
- Black-eared wheatear, Oenanthe hispanica
- Cyprus wheatear, Oenanthe cypriaca
- Pied wheatear, Oenanthe pleschanka
- White-fronted black chat, Oenanthe albifrons (formerly in either Pentholaea or Myrmecocichla)
- Somali wheatear, Oenanthe phillipsi
- Red-rumped wheatear, Oenanthe moesta
- Blackstart, Oenanthe melanura (formerly in Cercomela)
- Familiar chat, Oenanthe familiaris (formerly in Cercomela)
- Brown-tailed rock chat, Oenanthe scotocerca (formerly in Cercomela)
- Sombre rock chat, Oenanthe dubia (formerly in Cercomela)
- Brown rock chat, Oenanthe fusca (formerly in Cercomela)
- Variable wheatear, Oenanthe picata
- Black wheatear, Oenanthe leucura
- Abyssinian wheatear, Oenanthe lugubris
- White-crowned wheatear, Oenanthe leucopyga
- Hume's wheatear, Oenanthe alboniger
- Finsch's wheatear, Oenanthe finschii
- Mourning wheatear, Oenanthe lugens
- Arabian wheatear, Oenanthe lugentoides
- Kurdish wheatear, Oenanthe xanthoprymna
- Red-tailed wheatear, Oenanthe chrysopygia
- Oenanthe kormosi (Late Miocenee of Polgardi, Hungary) 
- Oenanthe pongraczi (Plioceme of Csarnota, Hungary) 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oenanthe (bird).|
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- Kessler, E. 2013. Neogene songbirds (Aves, Passeriformes) from Hungary. – Hantkeniana, Budapest, 2013, 8: 37-149.