Status and distribution Widespread but generally scarce across the region. Absent as a breeding bird from much of central Europe but breeds in southern England, north & central France and throughout Iberia, in parts of Italy, and east & South-East Europe to the Caspian Sea. Also breeds across in the Canary Is, North Africa and the Near East, in Turkey and much of Iraq. Range now very patchy in England and France, Italy and eastern Europe. Also breeds on the Canary Is and Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Cyprus.
Iberian, North African, Near East and Iraqi populations are largely resident those from further north are migrants, in Britain arrive late Mar in the north and leave again in late Aug.
Vagrants recorded in Iceland and Ireland, Norway and Estonia, also on the Azores and Madeira.
Subspecies Over most of the range the race is the nominate oedicnemus, replaced on the smaller Mediterranean islands, Greece, Turkey and North Africa east to Iraq by the paler, less heavily streaked race saharae and in southern Russia by the greyer harterti. However, there is much intergradation and subspecific identification is not always possible. Race distinctus from the western Canary Is is paler with heavier streaks and insularum from the eastern Canaries pinkish and heavily streaked.
Habitat Dry, open country, including grassland, sand-dunes, and heathland with sparse vegetation, open pine woods, farmland and areas of bare ground, stones or sand along riverbanks.Also steppe and semi-desert, open plains and bare hillsides. Chiefly crepuscular or nocturnal, more active during the day when feeding young.