Blackstart

It’s been awhile since I’ve featured a bird on the blog, so today let’s meet the Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura), called bal’ala by the Jebeliya Bedouin.

Blackstarts are common resident birds in South Sinai and are relatively unafraid of humans so there’s a good chance you’ll come across one in your wanders and maybe even get a chance to spend some time in their company. You might be serenaded by their song:

David Marques, XC82635. Accessible at http://www.xeno-canto.org/82635

These birds have bluish-grey to grey-brown plumage with darker colored wings. They are named (Oenanthe melanura) for their black tails, which they tend to have fanned out. In classical Greek, mela means black and oura, tail. Their bodies can be up to 14 cm long.

Blackstarts live in rocky wadis, deserts, and mountain slopes, where they can often be seen hopping around on the ground, feeding on insects.

Blackstarts are monogamous and pairs remain together in their breeding territory throughout the year. The female builds the nest, a shallow cup made of grass and leaves, in rock crevices and lines it with hair and fine plant material. She will lay 3 – 4 eggs, which are blue with reddish brown speckles. The eggs, if they aren’t preyed upon by a Golden Spiny Mouse, hatch after about 13 days. Both parents feed the chicks, which fledge, or grow flight feathers and are ready to learn to fly, after 14 days.

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