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Northern Wheatear, David Barnes
Photo © David Barnes

Photo: David Barnes
Breeding evidence - Northern Wheatear
Breeding evidence

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Northern Wheatear
Oenanthe oenanthe

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Conserv. status:
SRANK: Not Applicable (SNA)
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
0 0 0 0
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
BBS trends are not available for this species

Mean abundance (number of birds detected per 5 min. point count) and percentage of squares occupied by region

Bird Conservation Regions [abund. plot] [%squares plot]
Arctic Plains and MountainsBoreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Softwood Shield
Boreal Taiga PlainsPrairie PotholesTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains

Characteristics and Range This small passerine has a near-circumpolar breeding range, which extends farther south in Eurasia than in North America. Virtually the entire Northern Wheatear population winters in sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in the longest annual migration route of any passerine species (Kren and Zœrb 1997; Baerlein et al. 2012) and possibly nonstop trans-Atlantic flights (Bulte et al. 2014). Manitoba individuals identifiable to subspecies have belonged to the eastern (Greenland) race, O. o. leucorhoa (Koes 1995).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Northern Wheatear is primarily known as a very rare migrant through Manitoba, with most records coming from the Hudson Bay coast near Churchill. During the atlas period there were two observations in the vicinity of Churchill (Koes and Taylor 2010b, 2011). Neither bird lingered for more than one day and both were considered migrants, not possible breeders. There is one breeding record for the province, at Fort Prince of Wales, Churchill in 2006. Adults were seen carrying food to begging young in a stone wall, but the final outcome is unknown (Hannah and Hannah 2006). Throughout its range, the Northern Wheatear nests primarily in open terrain, using rocky areas, boulder piles, and building ruins, while rabbit burrows are preferred in parts of Western Europe.

Trends, Conservation, and Recommendations There is no information on North American numbers or population trends, but global numbers remain high. There appears to be enough suitable breeding habitat in extreme northern Manitoba for occasional future breeding attempts to take place. June and July records along Hudson Bay in Ontario also suggest occasional coastal breeding (Jones and Hussell 2007).

Rudolf F. Koes

Recommended citation: Koes, R. F. 2018. Northern Wheatear in Artuso, C., A. R. Couturier, K. D. De Smet, R. F. Koes, D. Lepage, J. McCracken, R. D. Mooi, and P. Taylor (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Manitoba, 2010-2014. Bird Studies Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba [19 Apr 2024]

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