basic information

Desert Wheatear

Oenanthe deserti (Temminck, 1829)

Пустынная каменка | Шөл тасшымшығы
spring male

South Kazakhstan, Ekpindy v.
© Yevgeny Belousov


The Desert Wheatear is a small bird 18-20 grams in weight. The upper parts of the male in summer are buff. The forehead, crown and uppertail are white. The wings are blackish, the flight feathers are black with the white bases. The cheeks, throat and the flanks of the neck are black. The black on the face and throat extends to the shoulders, and there is distinct white superciliary stripe. The underparts are white with a buff tinge on the breast. The black color at the female replaced by the brown one. The female is greyer above and buffer below and has no black on the throat, and in the winter plumage the black on the throat of the male is obscured by white tips. Juveniles are similar on female but have the light spots on the back and the dark spots on the abdomen. The best character, in both sexes at all ages, is that the entire tail is black to the level of the uppertail coverts.


The Desert Wheatear lives in the semi-deserts of central Asia. In Kazakhstan it breeds and occurs on migration in south half of the country. The detailed distribution in Kazakhstan please see in the chapter "Subspecies".


The Desert Wheatear is common, in places rare breeding migrant. It inhabits the sand desert with scarce vegetation, rare the saline deserts and the stone deserts with clay coombs up to 400-1000 m. These countries are used by Desert Wheatear on migration too. It appears in March – early April. Breeds in separate pairs not close one to another. The nest is built in the uninhabited burrows of rodents, among the roots, under the wind fallen saxaul trees, between the stones, under the sage-brush, or in the clay precipices at 0.9-2.8 m above the ground. The nest is mealy and cumbersome construction. It is built from the dry grass and leaves, sometimes the panicles of cane, the vegetal fuzz and the feathers; and is lined either with the hair and feathers, or with the thin grass and bast, or with both hairs and grass. The clutches of 3-6 eggs is in the end April – end May. Probably only female incubates for 14-16 days. Both parents feed hatchlings. Juveniles fledge at 13-14 days old in end May – end July. Two broods per year are probable but not proved. Autumn migration is most in September, the latest birds recorded in the end of October - early November.


Oenanthe deserti salina (Eversmann, 1850)

    Description. The white color on the inner webs of primaries faint disperses, forms the white edge of the webs and not touches the shaft of feathers. The male wing length 86.0-94.6 (92.4) mm.
    Distribution. Breeds and occurs on migration in the southern half of Kazakhstan, north up to Ural-Emba area (Zhamansor), Northern Trans-Aral area, Dzhezkazgan, Betpak-Dala, upper course of Sarysu river, Northern Trans-Balkhash area and Zaysan depression. The juvenile bird was caught in the end July in lower Turgay river; in summer and autumn it repeatedly occurs in Tengiz lake area where it probably breeds; in spring it was observed near Ust-Kamenogorsk and in Belaya Uba river valley.

Oenanthe deserti atrogularis (Blyth, 1847)

    Description. The white color on the inner webs of primaries faint disperses, forms the white edge of the webs and not touches the shaft of feathers. The sizes more than on salina. The male wing length 90.0-100.2 (94.6) mm.
    Distribution. Breeds on Southeast Altai in Chuyskaya steppe. It can be found in Kazakhstan on migration.


Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999. Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005. "Жизнь Животных" том 5. Птицы. Москва. "Просвещение", 1970. А.Ф.Ковшарь "Певчие птицы". Алма-Ата, "Кайнар", 1983.



Oenanthe deserti salina
(Eversmann, 1850)
Oenanthe deserti atrogularis
(Blyth, 1847)

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