Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely 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). The population trend appears to be decreasing, however the species is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to 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 6,500-6,900 pairs, which equates to 13,100-13,900 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.20% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 65,500-69,500 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 30-49% in 12.3 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). The rest of the global population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.


This species inhabits steep rocky arid landscapes with rock walls, scattered boulders, bare ground and sparse scrub, avoiding flat terrain. It inhabits gorges, ravines, steep-sided wadis, hillsides, screes, scarps, outcrops, sea cliffs, ancient hilltop settlements, ruins and old deserted houses, in wooded, semi-wooded, semi-desert and bare areas. It breeds from January to June in north-west Africa. In Spain nest-building begins mid-February and in the Pyrenees from mid-April. The nest is a bulky cup of grass and rootlets, lined with hair and feathers and sited under a rock or tussock, or up in hole in rock, wadi bank or wall. Clutches are three to five eggs. It feeds on invertebrates, small lizards and plant matter. The species is largely or strictly sedentary, but movements are variable and may be complex (Collar 2016).


Declines in Iberia have been attributed to severe winters and afforestation as well as the disappearance of derelict buildings and man-made caves (Collar 2016). Nests in man-made structures are safer from predators, which may also be a threat (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. Bern Convention Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Suitable habitat such as arid stony plateaus, canyons and gullies should be protected from afforestation. In addition in Europe abandoned buildings and man-made caves should be preserved (Tucker and Heath 1994).


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A.

Smart, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Oenanthe leucura. Downloaded from on 23/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2021.