Wild life and nature of Samos, Ikaria & Fournoi

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Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)


This is quite a small bird, measuring between 13 and 16 cm long. Males are quite striking, with a grey head and upper back, black wings, rufous breast and large black stripe through the eye. The females have a light brown head and upper back, dark brown wings, and no black eye stripe. Both species have a black and white tail with a distinctive “T” shape, which can be seen more clearly in flight.


This bird can be found in a variety of habitats, as long as there is open ground and short turf. This includes moors, cliff tops, tundra and rocky fields.


Like all birds of its kind, the Northern Wheatear is an insect eater. It swoops down on its prey from an elevated position such as a tree branch or rock. It may also jump up to catch insects out of the air.

Protection Status

This species is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Interesting Facts

Tracking devices have shown that the Northern Wheatear has one of the longest migratory flights known, which is approximately 30,000km, from sub-Saharan Africa to their Arctic breeding grounds.

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