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Living with Birds Wheatear Nick Baker's Nesting Favourite Tweetapedia

Nick Baker's Nesting Favourites – No. 3


"Up here on Dartmoor this is the bird that ushers in the season for me. Early to arrive, I start looking for them from the beginning of March. A smart and perky sentinel for the season, this bird is often seen perched upright, dipping, bobbing and twitching in alarm at your intrusion on its daily routine.

The male wears a smart silver grey uniform with bandit's eye-mask, and the female a peachy blush of pink and beige. But it’s their ‘white arse’ (the literal translation of their common name that refers to their rump) that is first to catch the eye. In the murk and gloom it’s that glowing derrière that sometimes seems to exist in isolation, punching through even the bleakest, mistiest scene. While this is a bird of moor & mountain, when in migration from their Sub-Saharan breeding grounds they can turn up almost anywhere.

Being birds of open places with little in the way of trees, their one or two nests a year are always close to the ground or even on it. Cracks in walls, holes under boulders and even rabbit burrows are selected: each can be home to 5-6 smooth, pale blue eggs (about 21mm x 16mm).

Wheatear Photo

Find yourself a wheatear territory, then settle down with some binoculars and watch. They're always doing something from their mad-cap aerial high flying displays to all manner of communicative postures and bizarre and varied vocalisations."

Wheatear I1

Nesting Timeline

Sometimes as early as the first week of March birds start showing up on their upland breeding grounds. They’ve flown all the way from Sub-Saharan Africa to be with us.
Males set up territory, which they announce with a variety of elaborate postures, calls and a spectacular song flight.
The nest is built in a hole by the female, crevice, disused rabbit burrow or even under rocks and other debris. It’s made of grass, moss and lined with finer material such as wool, feathers and often rabbit fur which usually share their rough grassland habitat.
Most birds have paired up and the females are sitting on a clutch of 5-6 pallid blue eggs. 13-14 days after incubation starts out of the eggs grey fluffy chicks hatch. Both parents bring them all manner of insect food.
Chicks fledge, but don’t go far, the noisy gauche tend to hang around being fed by both parents.

Nick’s 8 Winter Mammals