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Order Song birds/Passeriformes, Family Thrushes/Turdidae

Pied Wheatear/Oenanthe pleschanka - Male

L 14-16½ cm. Breeds on barren mountain slopes with low vegetation, high plateaux with boulder-strewn grassland, at times adjoining grazed or cultivated but bare areas; generally ascends higher and selects more precipitous habitats than Black-eared Wheatear. Migrant, winters mostly in E Africa; main passage thought to pass E and S of Jordan. Food insects. Nests in rock crevice, ground hole, under boulder.
IDENTIFICATION: Like Black-eared Wheatear in size, shape and tail pattern (i.e. black terminal band not uniform in width, but broader along tailsides and narrower in centre of each half of tail), and some female and autumn plumages can be extremely difficult to separate. - male summer: Black mantle patch, meets black throat at sides. Wings dark in flight (light on Mourning Wheatear). Breast buff in fresh plumage, undertail-coverts light yellowish-white (Mourning always pure white on breast, rusty on undertailcoverts). Adult has blacker wings, 1st-summer browner; in addition, 1stsummer is not so perfectly black and white, retains traces of winter plumage. (A white-throated morph, ‘vittata’, occurs very rarely.) - male winter: Since black mantle has broad grey-brown fringes, broader on 1st-winter than on adult, similarity to eastern Black-eared Wheatear arises. Is, however, colder brown-grey above with more distinct pale feather tips (scaly). - female: Very like eastern Black-eared Wheatear but darker and colder earth-brown above, in fresh plumage pale-scaled, and is pinkish rusty-brown or pinkish-grey on breast, often with irregular lower border against pale belly and with tendency towards diffuse mottling (female Black-eared more evenly yellow-orange on breast with more regular lower border and no mottling). Throat in spring variably dark, most showing hint of this also in autumn (but some then look rather pale-throated); dark of throat extends a bit further towards breast than on Black-eared Wheatear (but when head sunk between shoulders this becomes hard to judge).
VOICE: Strongly reminiscent of Black-eared Wheatear’s, and the two species seem not easy to distinguish by voice. Main call a cracked, frizzling ‘brsche’, at times also throaty clicking ‘tshak’ notes. Alarm a whistling ‘vih(e)’. Song verses are often somewhat shorter, and intervening pauses longer, than Black-eared’s, but song is similarly explosive, twittering and dry, e.g. ‘surtru-shirr-echu’; some variation in intonation, can at times resemble Whinchat’s song. Verses occasionally protracted and some mimicry included.

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