Wheatears have an almost circumpolar summer range, breeding from northeast Canada through Greenland, Iceland and the Faroes to much of Europe from the Mediterranean to Fenno-Scandia, and through central and northern Asia, across Siberia and via the Bering Strait into Alaska and northwest Canada. They winter in sub-Saharan Africa in a broad swathe from Mauritania and Senegal to Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
    In Britain Wheatears are summer visitors to the northern and western coasts and uplands from the Northern Isles of Scotland, down through Wales to the southwest peninsula of England. Bird Atlas 2007-2011 recorded a 14% contraction in their breeding season range since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas. They also occur as passage migrants virtually everywhere outside of major conurbations.
    In Wiltshire, as in most of southern England, breeding Wheatear numbers have fallen as a result of changes to land use, particularly widespread conversion of pastoral land to arable farming. In the 19th century the species was considered to be common. Numbers dipped as a result of land use intensification in the early years of the 20th century, then rose again in the period of farming depression between the two world wars, before finally falling as more land was devoted to growing food crops during and after the second world war. The figures from the regular atlases show the pattern of decline: the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas recorded Wheatears present in 18 of Wiltshire's 33 ten-km squares, with breeding in six; the 1988-91 Breeding Atlas had them present in  ten squares with breeding in three; Birds of Wiltshire found them in 61 tetrads, all spring migrants on passage except for one breeding pair; in WTA2 there were records from 161 tetrads but again in only one of them was breeding confirmed.

The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.