Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti oreophila, male, Golmud 36.450900, 94.798315), Qinghai, China, elev. 2800 m (9,170 ft.), July. Desert Wheatear ranges North Africa and Near East to western China. (Craig Brelsford)
Desert Wheatear
Juvenile oreophila, Qinghai, elev. 3290 m (10,790 ft.), July. (Craig Brelsford)

Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti breeds North Africa to China, with deserti in western and northern Xinjiang to northern Shaanxi and oreophila in southern Xinjiang, Tibet, and Qinghai. HABITAT Stonier, drier deserts than other wheatears in China. ID & COMPARISON Nearly all-black tail. Breeding male strongly contrasting, with pale buff crown and upperparts, white supercilium and rump, and black face, throat, and wings. Underparts creamy white with buff wash on breast. Winter male has black face speckled white. Breeding female grey-brown above and buffish-white below with no black on throat. Resembles breeding female Northern Wheatear O. oenanthe, but paler above and has blackish centers to wing coverts and tertials. Winter female has blacker wings than Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina. BARE PARTS Bill, feet black. VOICE Distinctive song, given in flight or from perch, a mournful, descending whistle ending in a dry trill, repeated continuously. — Craig Brelsford

THE WHEATEARS OF CHINA has research on all five species of wheatear in China. Click any link:

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina
Desert Wheatear O. deserti
Pied Wheatear O. pleschanka
Variable Wheatear O. picata


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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