Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura)


French: Traquet à queue noire German: Schwarzschwanz-Steinschmätzer Spanish: Colinegro común

Saxicola melanura


, 1824,

Sinai Peninsula, Egypt


Species often given as erlangeri, but that name invalid, as preoccupied. Race ultima individually highly variable, possibly not distinct from airensis. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. m. ultima (Bates, 1933) – E Mali and W Niger, possibly also NE Burkina Faso.
  • O. m. airensis (E. J. O. Hartert, 1921) – N Niger (Aïr) E to C Sudan, possibly also SW Egypt (Gebel Uweinat)#R.
  • O. m. melanura (Temminck, 1824) – extreme S Syria (Yarmuk Valley), E & S Israel, Jordan and extreme NE Egypt (Sinai) S to NW and interior C & S Arabia.
  • O. m. neumanni (Ripley, 1952) – SW Saudi Arabia, W & S Yemen and SW Oman.
  • O. m. lypura (Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1833) – EC & E Sudan (E from Kordofan), and SE Egypt (Gebel Elba) S to Eritrea and N & EC Ethiopia.
  • O. m. aussae (Thesiger & Meynell, 1934) – extreme NE Ethiopia, Djibouti and N Somalia.
  • Descriptive notes

    14 cm; 13–18 g. Rather long-legged and slender chat. Nominate race is dull pale blue-tinged grey above, forehead and ear-coverts sometimes washed brownish, with darker... read more


    Song, by male through most of year (infrequently in autumn), a series of short rapid variable... read more


    Rocky hilly terrain, including dissected subdesert, stony desert with acacia and tamarisk, dry... read more

    Food and feeding

    Adult insects (including beetles and ants) and caterpillars reported in Middle East; also berries, including Lycium shawii. Food... read more


    Apr–Jun in Mali and May–Jul in Niger; May in Sudan; Feb–Apr in Ethiopia; May–Jun (probably also Mar–Apr) in... read more


    Mainly sedentary. Possibly only a summer visitor to Gebel Elba, in SE Egypt, and records in N Egypt... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Frequent to common. Density along two wadis found to be c. 1 pair/250 m. Common at Tibesti and S to Largeau, in Chad. Locally common in Sudan from... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2019). Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura). 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 13 December 2019).