Hume’s wheatear -- 休姆氏䳭 (Oenanthe albonigra)

Side view of a perched Hume's wheatear
Loading more images and videos...

Hume’s wheatear fact file

Hume’s wheatear description

GenusOenanthe (1)

Named after Allan Hume, the ornithologist who first identified the bird in 1872 in Pakistan, Hume’s wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra) is a small, conspicuous insectivorous bird. It has a long, stout bill, a rounded head, and short legs (2) (3) (4) (5).

Hume’s wheatear is easily identified by its bold, contrasting black and white plumage (6). The head, throat and pointed wings are black with a slight blue sheen, while the lower back and rump are pure white (4). The tail has a distinctive ‘T’-shaped pattern (7).

The adult female Hume’s wheatear is usually slightly duller than the male, but otherwise both sexes are fairly similar in appearance (2) (4). The juvenile Hume’s wheatear is similar to the adult, but is generally brownish rather than glossy black (4).

Hume’s wheatear can be distinguished from other Oeananthe species by its longer tail (2) (3) (4) and more upright stance (8).

The song of Hume’s wheatear is mostly heard during the breeding season. It is only ever sung by the male, and is usually delivered from high up on a cliff, from a perch, or during flight (4) (7).

Length: 16.5 - 17 cm (2)
Wingspan: 29 - 30.5 cm (2)
Male weight: 23 - 28 g (2)
Female weight: 22 - 27 g (2)

Hume’s wheatear biology

A solitary and territorial species, Hume’s wheatear has been described as a bold and fearless bird (4) (10). The diet of Hume’s wheatear consists primarily of insects, such as ants, beetles, flies and termites. Hume’s wheatear may capture its prey by either launching itself onto prey from a low perch, or more commonly by a ‘dash-and-jab’ technique while pursuing its prey in flight (2) (4). It may also feed on small lizards, scorpions and seeds (4).

A monogamous species, the male Hume’s wheatear attracts a mate by displaying to prospective partners. This display involves the male exposing the white colouring on its back by holding the head and tail low. Very little information is available on the breeding biology of Hume’s wheatear, although both the male and the female are known to share the responsibility of feeding the young. The adults continue to provide for the young for some time after the young have fledged (4).


Hume’s wheatear range

The large range of Hume’s wheatear extends from Iraq, eastwards to Pakistan and south to Oman (9).


Hume’s wheatear habitat

Hume’s wheatear is commonly found on steep, rocky hillsides. The rocky outcrops and cliffs within this habitat provide Hume’s wheatear with look-outs to spot prey, sources of shade, refuge from predators and rocky holes in which to nest (2) (4).

For feeding, Hume’s wheatear requires gently sloping or flat ground (2) (4), which may be covered in stone, gravel, silt or widely scattered plants (4). Hume’s wheatear has been found at elevations from sea level up to 1,900 metres (2) (4).


Hume’s wheatear status

Hume's wheatear is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Hume’s wheatear threats

There are currently no known major threats to Hume’s wheatear (9).


Hume’s wheatear conservation

Due to its large range and lack of major threats (9), Hume’s wheatear is currently not known to be the focus of any specific conservation measures.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. Snow, D. and Perrins, C. (1998) The Birds of the Western Paleartic. Volume 2, Passeriformes. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Hume, A. (1873) Stray Feathers. Journal of Ornithology for India and its dependencies; Volume 1. William Wesley & Son, Booksellers & Publishers, London.
  4. Cramp, S. (1988) Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Kaboli, M., Aliabadian, M., Guillaumet, A., Roselaar, C.S. and Prodon, R. (2007) Ecomorphology of the wheatears (genus Oenanthe). Ibis, 149: 792-805.
  6. Vine, P. (1996) Natural Emirates: Wildlife and Environment of the United Arab Emirates. Trident Press, London.
  7. Beaman, M. and Madge, S. (1998) The Handbook of Bird Identification: For Europe and the Western Palearctic. Christopher Helm Publishers, London.
  8. Hollum, P., Porter, R., Christensen, S. and Willis, I. (1988) Birds of the Middle East and North Africa. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Staffordshire.
  9. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
  10. Shipley, A. (1924) Fauna of British India, Birds. Volume 2. Taylor and Francis, London.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Feeds primarily on insects.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.


  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2009)

Image credit

Side view of a perched Hume's wheatear  
Side view of a perched Hume's wheatear

© Hanne & Jens Eriksen

Hanne & Jens Eriksen


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Hume’s wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top