Identification: It is said that the name Wheatear derives from the expression 'white arse', a perfect description of how this bird appears as it flies away. Indeed, it is the white rump contrasting with the inverted black 'T' in the tail which separates a Wheatear in any plumage from all other British birds. Males in spring are handsome birds with blue-grey backs and black eye masks. Females and first winter birds are brown above and usually lack the dark eye patch.
Habitat: Breeds in holes in the ground or in walls in areas of short turf such as moors, downs and cliff-tops.
Distribution: A common summer visitor mainly to upland areas in the north and west. Much more local in the south, but a very familiar passage bird which is usually the first migrant to arrive in spring.
Widespread and easily located in open country throughout Europe.
Population: At least 55 000 breeding pairs in Britain with 12 000 in Ireland. Most of these are found in the north and west of Britain and Ireland.
2-4 million breeding pairs across northern, central and eastern Europe. In the west they have a more scattered distribution becoming more widespread in Spain and northern Britain.