Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Variable Wheatear (Oenanthe picata)


French: Traquet variable German: Elstersteinschmätzer Spanish: Collalba variable

Saxicola picata


, 1847,

Sind, Pakistan


Occurs as three forms, considered here as morphs—“picata”, “opistholeuca” and “capistrata”—but commonly treated as races#R, and sometimes even as full species; alternatively, the first two together have been considered as one species, and the third as another, an arrangement which is possibly more appropriate. Populations of “capistrata” × “opistholeuca” exist, however, and there are records of hybrid male “capistrata” × “picata” pairing with female “opistholeuca”. The morph “capistrata” has been thought perhaps to represent a hybrid swarm with O. pleschanka, which both sexes closely resemble. Monotypic.


NE & SE Iran, Turkmenistan and extreme S Kazakhstan#R E to W Tien Shan, Pamirs, N & W Pakistan and Kashmir; non-breeding SW Asia and SE Arabian Peninsula.

Descriptive notes

15 cm; 20–25 g. Male of “picata” morph resembles O. albonigra, but is smaller, smaller-headed and less glossy, with lower back and upper... read more


Song, from prominent vantage (such as rock, telephone wire or rooftop), occasionally in flight, is... read more


Inhabits highly weathered low mountains (below c. 700 m) among sand deserts with grass vegetation... read more

Food and feeding

Small insects, notably ants, small beetles, flies and small grasshoppers, also largers insects, e.g. moths; occasionally also fruit of ... read more


Mar–Jun in C Asia; Jun–Jul in Afghanistan and third week Mar to Jul in Pakistan; double-brooded. Territory 2–3 ha in NE... read more


Migratory. Early autumn migrant in S Pakistan (Sind), arriving early Aug, and departing end Feb.... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Common in C Asia. Commonest and most widespread wheatear in plains of Pakistan in winter; fairly common in NW India in winter. Breeding density up to... read more

Recommended citation

Collar, N. (2020). 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 28 February 2020).