Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens)


French: Traquet deuil German: Schwarzrücken-Steinschmätzer Spanish: Collalba núbica

Saxicola lugens

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,

Nubia [= Deram]


Has been treated as conspecific with O. finschii and hybridization between them recently recorded#R. Taxonomy complex, and several proposals have been offered. In one of commonest, races comprise four basic groups, each of which could possibly be treated as a separate species: “lugens group” (also including halophila and persica); “lugentoides group” (with boscaweni); “lugubris group” (with vauriei); and single-taxon “schalowi group” (sometimes included in “lugubris group”), although some commentators have suggested that both halophila and persica might be recognized as additional species#R#R#R. Differences between nearest-neighbour groups, however, are weak, even though total variation is high; consequently, new arrangements can overlap, e.g. the “lugentoides group” has been treated both as a species on its own and as a member of a separate species that includes the “lugubris group” and schalowi. What was previously considered black morph of nominate race recently described as separate race, warriae#R. Name syenitica, previously applied erroneously to NW African race of O. leucura, now known to represent member of present species, considered synonymous with nominate race by some authorities#R, but far more likely to be either a senior synonym of warriae or an independent (perhaps extinct) taxon#R. Recent analysis using mtDNA recommended species status for O. lugens, O. lugentoides and O. lugubris (this last with schalowi), but obtained no evidence from nuclear DNA#R; call made in HBW for integrative review involving also vocal, behavioural and ecological evidence still unanswered. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • O. l. halophila (Tristram, 1859) – Maghreb Wheatear – Morocco (S of C & E High Atlas) E to W Egypt (W of R Nile).
  • O. l. lugens (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – Mourning Wheatear – C & S Syria, Lebanon#R, Israel, Jordan and NW Arabia S to E Egypt and NE Sudan.
  • O. l. persica (Seebohm, 1881) – N Iraq#R and W, SW & S Iran; non-breeding S Iraq, Kuwait and E Arabia.
  • O. l. warriae Shirihai & Kirwan, 2011 – Basalt Wheatear – basalt deserts of S Syria and NE Jordan#R.
  • O. l. lugentoides (Seebohm, 1881) – Arabian Wheatear – SW Saudi Arabia and W Yemen.
  • O. l. boscaweni Bates, 1937 – NW Yemen and S Oman.
  • O. l. lugubris (Rüppell, 1837) – Abyssinian Wheatear – highlands of Eritrea and N & C Ethiopia.
  • O. l. vauriei R. Meinertzhagen, 1949 – N Somalia (Sanaag Region).
  • O. l. schalowi (G. A. Fischer & Reichenow, 1884) – CS Kenya and N Tanzania.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–16 cm; 19–25 g. Breeding male nominate race has white crown (through eye) to nape, black face, throat and neck side continuous with black wings and upper back... read more


    Song (by both sexes, male more commonly; sometimes in flight) a loud sweet warbling series of... read more


    Boulder-strewn, sloping, broken desert country, often with caves for shelter: limestone escarpments... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly ants in Africa; also beetles, grasshoppers, butterflies and other insects. Stomachs of eleven birds from SW Iran, Mar–Nov,... read more


    Mar–Jul in NW Africa; Feb–Jun in Egypt; Mar–Aug in Ethiopia; Oct–Jul in Kenya, with possible peak Mar; mid-Mar to... read more


    Majority sedentary in Syria, Israel, Jordan and SW Arabia; black morph of nominate entirely... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally locally common to abundant in N Africa, including Egypt mainly E of R Nile. Rather scarce in Morocco and Tunisia. Frequent to common in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens). 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 27 January 2020).