Whinchat

Saxicola rubetra

12.5cm

Appearance

The Whinchat is more slender than the Stonechat; the bill is thicker, the head not as rounded, and the wings are longer. In all plumages, the tail is white on each side of the base and there are black spots higher up. The sexes are different. Males are streaked and brown on top, they have a distinct white stripe above the eye and a more subtle one beneath the dark cheeks, the throat and breast are orange, and it is otherwise whitish below. The legs and bill are dark. Females appear like a duller version of the male; the eye stripe, throat and breast are buffish. Juveniles are similar to females, but the breast has some spotting and the markings are less clear.

Habitat

Breeding grounds include marginal bracken near moorlands, forests with grassy clearings, and in areas with a variety of short grasslands and appropriate perches.

Character

Is quite active, twitching and fluttering the wings and tail. Flight is quite jolty as it changes perches, and often flies quite low. Most commonly seen alone or in pairs, except during summer when family groups are still together.

Food

Diet includes mayflies, caddis flies, other flies, moths and their caterpillars, beetles, spiders, snails, worms, seeds and blackberries.

Breeding

Female lays 5 or 6 eggs in May or June, and she incubates them for 12-13 days. Both adults feed the hatchlings, which depart the nest at about 12-13 days old; they fledge at 17-19 days but don't gain complete independence until 28-30 days. A second brood is quite common.

Population

The Whinchat is a summer visitor, and majority of birds arrive in April and May. Approximately 47 000 pairs breed in the UK and 1000-2500 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Farmland areas are one of the best places to view this bird, because their perches may be more in the open; be sure to check wire fences and the like, as the bird's small size allows for more delicate resting spots.

Voice

Has a piercing 'tick-tick' call when disturbed, and a fast twittering song.
Back to Bird Index