Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 1,280,000-3,680,000 pairs, which equates to 2,560,000-7,350,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms 55% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 4,600,000-13,400,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
In Europe, trends between 1998 and 2013 show that populations have undergone a moderate decline (EBCC 2015).


This species breeds in warm climatic zones in stony, scrubby, often broken terrain (slopes and foothills) around open woodland of alerce (Tetraclinis), juniper (Juniperus) or oak (Quercus), amid Olea and Pistacia scrub, olive trees, cactus groves, and in fallowland, vineyards, dry maquis steppe and shrub-covered limestone hills. Breeding begins from March to June in north-west Africa, late April in Spain and from early May in Greece and Armenia. The nest is a rather flat cup of stems, moss and fibres, lined with hair or down and set on the ground under a stone, rocky overhang or tussock, among scree, in burrow or hole in ruin or wadi bank. Clutches are typically four of five eggs. The diet is made up of invertebrates, berries and seeds. The species is migratory and travels on a broad front across the Mediterranean and Sahara to winter in the African Sahel (Collar 2015).


Since 1970 the species has declined in western Europe, most likely due to drought in its wintering quarters and agricultural intensification, as well as afforestation and abandonment of low-intensity farming (Collar 2015). It may also be threatened locally by predation from foxes (Vulpes) and feral dogs (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. Bern Convention Appendix II. In Spain the species is nationally red-listed as “Near-threatened” (Collar 2015). Increases in sheep grazing within Iberia have been favourable to this species (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation Action Proposed
Areas of sheep grazing need to be conserved through support for traditional pastoral farming methods within Europe (Tucker and Heath 1994).


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Oenanthe hispanica. Downloaded from on 03/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/07/2022.