Stonechat

Saxicola torquata

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata)

As the vernacular name defines, this bird has a sharp call which sounds like two stones being tapped together. This is a small rounded bird with a distinctive orangey-red breast, a blackish-brownish back, with a black head and throat, and a white patch on the side of the neck. The female which has a pale patch over the eye and a paler throat maybe confused with the Winchat.  The juveniles have pale throats and mottled chests.

It feeds on invertebrates, seeds and fruit. They nest in a grassy cup lined with hair and feathers, often in thick grass. The female lays 5 or 6 eggs in 2 broods from May to July. They can live for up to 5 years.

Seen all year round, and maybe found perched on top of bushes, fences or overhead wires, but it mainly inhabits heaths, upland moors, and coastal cliffs and dunes. They breed in western and southern parts of the UK, but disperse more widely in the winter.

Photograph of Stonechat (Saxicola torquata), taken August 2012, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

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