Stonechat

©Margaret Holland

Stonechat

Scientific name: Saxicola rubicola
The Stonechat sounds just how it is named - the noise of it flicking its wings is just like two small stones being hit together! It can be seen on heathland and boggy habitats.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 12cm
Wingspan: 20cm
Weight: 15g
Average lifespan: 4-5 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December

About

A small, dumpy chat, the Stonechat is a little smaller than a Robin. It has a big head and short tail. It can frequently be seen sitting on the top of gorse bushes, flicking its wings and making a sound like two small stones being hit together. Stonechats inhabit heaths, bogs and conifer plantations. They eat invertebrates, seeds and fruit, such as blackberries.

How to identify

Male Stonechats have a black head, brown back, black throat with a white half-collar, and orange-red breast. Females and juveniles are paler. Darker than the similar Whinchat, the Stonechat does not have a pale eyestripe or pale patches at the base of the tail.

Distribution

Resident on heathland throughout the country. Can also be found around the coast during the winter.

Did you know?

On heathland in the south of England, Dartford Warblers can often be seen following Stonechats around, perhaps catching the small insects that the larger bird disturbs.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working to restore and protect our heathlands by ensuring breeding birds are not disturbed, promoting good management, clearing encroaching scrub and implementing beneficial grazing regimes. This work is vital if these habitats are to survive; you can help by supporting your local Wildlife Trust and becoming a member or volunteer.