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A passage migrant in spring and autumn


Photograph by: 
Debby Saunders

Wheatear: it wont stay here

Post date: Monday, 17 March, 2014 - 00:00

During the spring thousands and thousands of birds pass through Dorset as they return from the far south to their breeding grounds across the United Kingdom. Many go unseen, they do not stop as there is an urgency and a drive to get 'home'. The autumn is a little different, many stop off here for a final meal before setting off across the Channel on their long journey to their winter quarters.

One of the first to arrive in spring is the wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and from mid-March and into April it is not unusual to find one along the coast of Dorset or on high ground across the county. The wheatear will not stay here though, it is a common bird in the uplands of Wales, northern England and throughout Scotland and it soon continues on its journey back home.

It is a distinctive bird in appearance, an upright stance and about the size of a startling but the most obvious feature is its white rear that cannot be missed when it is in flight and it is what probably gives it its name - white rear = wheatear!

It is often seen standing on rocks and boulders surveying the surrounding grassy areas for likely insects to eat. 


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Wheatear
Scientific Name Oenanthe oenanthe
Status Occasional
Interest Level
Species Family Chats
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 09 - September
Preferred Environment
  • Downland and scrub
Look for The white rump when it flies
Additional Identification Notes
  • One of the first migratory birds to arrive in spring and leave in autumn
  • Seen in open habitats and can be quite frequent here but it does not breed in Dorset
  • Distinctive markings but well known for its white rump that shows clearly when it flies