Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina


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 stable, and hence the species does not 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 2,060,000-6,230,000 pairs, which equates to 4,130,000-12,500,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms 15% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 27,500,000-83,000,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. The European population is estimated to be stable (BirdLife International 2015).


This species is found in arid, open, sparsely vegetated country, including dry plains, mountain and lowland steppes, semi-desert, wadis and desert margins, commonly where burrowing rodents, such as gerbil (Rhombomys opimus), occur. In Armenia, it is found in rolling semi-desert with Tamarix, Artemisia, Euphorbia, Alhagi, Atraphaxis and Gypsophila, and is usually on south-facing mountain steppe with Astragalus. Breeding occurs from mid-April to mid-July in Israel, April-May in Jordan, March-June in Armenia and Baluchistan and sometimes as early as mid-February in Turkmenistan but normally late March to July in southern Russia and late April to mid-July in Mongolia. The nest is a shallow, bulky cup of dried grass, roots and hair, lined with hair, wool and feathers. It is set deep in a rodent burrow or burrow of a similar mammal and less often in and old bee-eater (Meropidae) hole or occasionally in a natural hole or crevice. Clutches are four to seven eggs. The diet is mainly invertebrates, particularly insects such as beetles and ants and vegetable matter. The species is migratory (Collar 2015).


The species is linked to some extent to populations of burrow-nesting rodents, which supply nest-holes. As a result, declines in these species, such as falls in gerbil numbers due to ploughing, may impact this species (Collar 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within Europe


Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Oenanthe isabellina. Downloaded from on 24/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/09/2023.