Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Black-eared wheatear

Oenanthe hispanica

Common name:

Order Passeriformes
Family Muscicapidae

The black-eared wheatear breeds in southern Europe, North Africa, and through the Arabian Peninsula and Middle East into Asia, as far east as the Caspian Sea, southwest Kazakhstan and Iran. They migrate south to winter in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly along the Sahel belt and in north-east Africa.

These birds are 13,5-15,5 cm long and have a wingspan of 30-31 cm. They weigh 12-21 g.

Black-eared wheatears inhabit open, rocky areas with scrubby vegetation, on slopes or foothills, also occurring in gardens and extensive agricultural land, although it requires at least some low, shrubby vegetation.

They commonly forage from a perch up to 3 m above the ground, flying down to catch insects and other invertebrates either in flight or from the ground. Their main prey are Formicidae, Coleoptera, Orthoptera and Heteroptera, although they may occasionally also take seeds and berries.

The black-eared wheatear breeds in March-July. The nest consists of a flat cup of plant stems, moss and fibres, lined with hair or down, and may be built on the ground under a stone, rocky overhang, tussock or thick bush, in a burrow, or in a hole in a ruin. The female lays 3-6 eggs which are incubated for 13-14 days. The young fledge 11-14 days after hatching, but remain dependent on the adults for another 3 weeks.

IUCN status - LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population of 5-20 million individuals. Populations in south-western Europe have undergone a decline since 1970, particularly in Spain, probably as a result of habitat changes including agricultural intensification and afforestation schemes, combined with droughts in its winter range in Africa. Overall the species is not considered threatened at present.

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