Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)


French: Traquet du désert German: Wüstensteinschmätzer Spanish: Collalba desértica

Saxicola deserti


, 1825,



Several races in C of range sometimes discriminated (salina and atrogularis) but distinctions very slight, and better treated as synonyms of nominate. Boundaries of races not well established; details below provisional. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. d. homochroa (Tristram, 1859) – N Africa, from S Morocco, Western Sahara and NW Mauritania (Cap Blanc) E to NW Egypt; non-breeding Sahara and N Sahel (Mauritania E to Chad).
  • O. d. deserti (Temminck, 1825) – NE Egypt (Sinai) and Levant (C Syria S to S Israel) E, discontinuously, to Afghanistan, C & S Kazakhstan, Mongolia and NW & N China (NW Xinjiang, Gansu, Shaanxi, C Inner Mongolia); non-breeding NE Africa (including Socotra) and SW Asia.
  • O. d. oreophila (Oberholser, 1900) – E Pamirs, Karakoram Mts and Kashmir E to Nepal, Tibetan Plateau and W China (W & S Xinjiang, Qinghai); non-breeding Arabia, SW Asia and NW & C India.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15 cm; 15–34 g. Male nominate race breeding is sandy-brown from crown to upper back, with white supercilium and scapulars, black face (through eye) to throat... read more


    Song, by male (in flight and on ground), a distinctive series of short variable phrases each of 2... read more


    Dry steppes and desert edge with little vegetation, dry sparsely bushed riverbeds, wadis, ruins and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Chiefly invertebrates; also occasionally seeds. Animal food includes adult and larval beetles of at least five families, adult and larval... read more


    Feb–Jun in Morocco and mid-Mar to end May in Algeria and Tunisia; May–Jul in Egypt; early Apr to mid-Jul in Israel; from May in... read more


    N African populations (race homochroa) partially migratory, moving S for Sept–Apr to... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common throughout most of range. Generally common to abundant breeder in N Africa. Fairly common in Israel, with total population estimated at 1000... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2019). Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti). 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 7 December 2019).