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Male Stonechat
Male: Black head, orange-red breast, dark brown upperparts, white patches on neck, wings and rump.
Female Stonechat
Female: Similar to male but lacks black head and generally seems faded.

The Stonechat is similar to the Whinchat but is generally darker in appearance and looks less slender.

In the spring and summer, the male has a black head and orange-red underparts. The back and wings are dark brown. There are white patches on each side of its neck, rump and wings. At other times of the year the male is duller.

The female does not have a black head, the white neck patch is less distinct and the plumage looks generally faded compared with the male.

Unlike the Whinchat, Stonechats do not have a stripe above the eye (i.e. supercilium).

Juvenile plumage is similar to that of the female but duller.


Scientific Name Saxicola torquata
Length 12.5 cm (5")
Wing Span 18-21 cm (7½-8½")
Weight 14-17 g (½ oz)
Breeding Pairs 16000
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


Their grating song is similar to that of a Dunnock but shorter and scratchier.

The alarm call is the typical scolding "chak, chak" of a chat and sounds like two pebbles being crashed together.


© Jean Roché,
Alarm Call

© Jean Roché,


Stonechats are primarily insectivorous, feeding on caterpillars, moths, ants, spiders and flies, though they will also take worms and snails, and feed on seeds and berries in the autumn and winter.


The Stonechat breeds on heath, moors, grassland, and wasteland that have some dense shrubs, such as gorse, in which it can build a nest. The female constructs the cup-shaped nest from grass and moss, and then lines it with hair, wool, and feathers.

The eggs are smooth, pale blue to greenish-blue and speckled with reddish-brown. They are incubated mostly by the female, but both birds look after the nestlings.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
mid-March 1-3 3-8 14-15 12-13


Some British residents move to eastern coastal areas in the winter, while others fly south to the Mediterranean. The British winter population also includes birds from north-western continental Europe, e.g. Germany.


The Stonechat was on the Amber List of Species of Conservation Concern owing to declines in the populations in Europe, but this is no longer the case. In Britain, the conservation of their heath habitat is important.