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Variable Wheatear | Birds And Me

Variable Wheatear


Variable Wheatear

Scientific Name:  Oenanthe picata

Variable Wheatear image

Variable Wheatear  Photo by:  Admin

Bird Type:  Perching Birds    741  Views


Very variable. Males can be mainly black (O. p. opistholeuca), have black headwith white underparts (nominate)(very similar to Hum's ), or white crown and white underparts(O. p. capistrata) (very similat to Pied). Female can be mainly sooty-brown or have greyish upperparts with variable greyish-white underpart. In worn (spring/summer) plumage, mary females are not separable from female Pied, but in fresh plemage Variable does not show Pied's prominent pale fringes to mantle/scapulars and wing feathers.


  • 15-15 cm

  • 6-6 Inch

  • black

  • white  (Bird may have more colors)
  •    കറുപ്പൻ നെന്മണിക്കുരുവി
  •    बहुरुपी भुइँरबिन

Breeds in barren valleys and low hills; winters in plains stony desert foothills and cultivation.


The Variable Wheatear is primarily insectivorous, feeding on Coleopterans and Lepidoptera. It also catches Dipterans in flight. It consumes ants, grasshoppers, spiders, small reptiles and berries. It hunts from perch, rock or low branch, and flies down to the ground to catch its prey. It pursues it on the ground, also digs with the bill to find invertebrates and pecks at the vegetation.



The variable wheatear (Oenanthe picata) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is found in Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

Its natural habitat is hot deserts.

The Variable Wheatear Oenanthe picata (Muscicapidae: Passeriformes) is a bird of arid and semi-arid region, and is locally abundant in barren rocky areas, sand dunes with scrub vegetation, cultivation, ravines, outside villages and nomadic encampments.

It is polymorphic and has three distinct morphs.

Black-bellied phase ('opistholeuca'). Male (adult). Entirely jet black except rump, under tail-coverts, base and sides of tail which are white; central rectrices and terminal band of tail black. Female has black parts replaced by sooty black.

 White-bellied phase ('picata') Male (adult). Like the preceding but belly white. Female similar to male but black parts replaced by greyish brown; belly more buffish.

 White-crowned phase ('capistrata'). Male (adult). Like picata, with white belly and black throat, but crown and nape white. Female similar to male but black parts and crown earthy brown; belly more buffish.

The geographical dominance of the three types of females does not exactly correspond to the dominances of the three colour phases of the males, but in their wintering grounds there is some corresponding separation.

This species is found in NE & SE Iran and Turkmenistan E to W Tien Shan, Pamirs, and N & W Pakistan; non-breeding SW Asia. Common and generally distributed in winter in Pakistan and northwestern India southeast to Delhi, central Madhya Pradesh and northern Maharashtra (Khandesh). Arrives on breeding grounds in March (Baluchistan) or mid April (Chitral), remains till September. May be seen in winter quarters from the beginning of August (Karachi dist) till the end of March.

In winter frequents stony semi-desert, and desert with sparsely scrubbed sand dunes, cultivation, ravines, outskirts of villages and nomadic encampments, cattle corrals, etc.; usually from almost sea level to c. 1200 m, but has been observed also at 2700 m in deep snow!

    Resident (inc. local and altitudinal migrants)
    Former range (no recent records but may still survive)
    Summer visitor (including summer monsoon)
    Winter visitor
    Passage (autumn and/or spring) visitor
    known to be occasional, scarce or erratic
    Small isolated population (actual range smaller)  
    Isolated record(s) - one or more in the same area  
 colour coded for seasonality as per coloured ranges, black denotes unspecified season



Location:, Chotila, Gujarat

Photo by:  Admin