(Motacilla Oenanthe, Linn.—Le Moteux, ou le Culblanc, Buff.)
LENGTH five inches and a half. Bill black; eyes hazel; from the base of the bill a black streak is extended over the eyes, cheeks, and ears, where it is pretty broad; above this there is a line of white; the top of the head, hinder part of the neck, and the back, are bluish grey; the wing coverts and quills dusky, edged with rusty white; the rump is perfectly white, as is part of the tail; the rest black; the under parts are pale buff, tinged with red on the breast: legs and feet black. In the female the white line above the eye is somewhat obscure, and all the black parts of the plumage incline more to brown; neither is the tail of so pure a white.
The Wheatear breeds under shelter of a tuft or clod, in newly-ploughed lands, or under stones, and sometimes in old rabbit burrows: the nest is constructed with great care, of dry grass or moss, mixed with wool, lined with feathers, and defended by a sort of covert fixed to the stone or clod under which it is formed: the female generally lays five or six light blue eggs, the larger end encompassed with a circle of a somewhat deeper hue.
This bird visits us about the middle of March, and from that time till May is seen to arrive: it frequents new-tilled grounds, and never fails to follow the plough in search of insects and small worms, which are its principal food. In some parts of England great numbers are taken in snares made of horse hair, placed beneath a turf; near two thousand dozen are said to have been taken annually in that way, in one district only, and are generally sold at sixpence per dozen.* They leave us in August and September, and about that time are seen in great numbers by the sea-shore, where, probably, they subsist some little time before they take their departure. They are extended over a large portion of the globe, even as far as the southern parts of Asia.
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