BIRD OF THE MONTH: MARCH 2006 – STONECHAT

Posted by NH Admin on Friday, 17th March 2006, 00:00

Stonechat Saxicola torquata

Size

Length = 12.5cm Wingspan = 18-21cm

Physical description

Male (breeding): black head, dark brown back, white on side of neck, burnt-orange breast and paler belly, short tail.

Male (non-breeding): similar but duller.

Female: brown head, brown streaked back, less white on side of neck, paler orange breast.

Voice

Call: has been compared to two stones being knocked together.Song: a rapid warble with some grating notes.

Diet

Insects, spiders, snails, worms; seeds, berries.

Lifespan

Up to 5 years.

Habitat

Open country: heath, moors, scrub, stony ground. Likes gorse and heather.

Geographic range

Whole UK.

Migration

Resident and partial migrant.

Conservation status

Thought to be declining.

Related species

Whinchat

Where can I see this bird in Northwood / Medham? Take the public footpath which goes past Medham Farm down to the Medina. Look in the scrubby fields either side of the footpath. The bird perches on the top of plants and small bushes. Also look for it on fence-posts. It drops to the ground to catch insects then returns to perch again.
Why is this bird worth seeing?

The stonechat’s colouring is bright and distinctive. Marvel at its daintiness as it perches on the thin stalks of plants. Watch the pair feeding together.The knowledge that stonechats live here increases your appreciation of the area: those scrubby fields are easy to walk past without realising that birds are feeding in them. It is special to the birdwatching beginner because it is difficult to find on your first attempt, but it rewards the effort and should be easy to see afterwards.

Binoculars needed?

Yes (difficult to find without them).

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