Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
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Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear
Oenanthe oenanthe
Perching Birds | Family: Thrushes, Turdidae

An estimated 55% of the species' North American breeding range lies within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

Two geographically separate populations of Northern Wheatears breed in North America. In fall the western population migrates southwestward and the eastern population migrates southeastward, both wintering in Africa with as many as 22 other species of wheatears. Thus the New World has been colonized by Northern Wheatears from both East and West; they maintain their ancestral distinction by continuing to follow separate migratory routes. The scientific name Oenanthe is from the ancient Greek and means "wine-flower," alluding to the fact that these birds return to Greece in the spring just as the vineyards blossom.

Description

5 1/2-6" (14-15 cm). A very rare, sparrow-sized bird of open ground. Warm brown above, buff-pink below; bold white rump and sides of tail contrast with black center and tip of tail, which form an inverted T.

Voice

Harsh chak-chak! Song is a jumble of warbling notes.

Nesting

5-7 pale green eggs in a fur-lined cup of grass concealed under a rock, in a rabbit burrow, or in a crevice in a wall.

Habitat

Nests in rocky tundra; barren pastures and beaches in winter.

Range/Migration

Breeds in Alaska and extreme northern Canada, appearing very rarely in northern United States in fall. Winters in Eurasia and North Africa; very rare in North America in winter.