Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Saxicola rubetra | [UK] Whinchat | [FR] Tarier commun | [DE] Braunkehlchen | [ES] Tarabilla Nortena | [NL] Paapje
Medium-sized, strong-billed, long tailed, and sprightly chat, with posture frequently recalling Winter Wren.
Plumage essentially bright rufous to grey-brown above and buff-white below, with obvious pale supercilium, double wing-bar, and diagnostic orange-rufous tail tipped black and withe,
Flight chat-like in action but silhouette recalls large warbler. Sexes similar, no seasonal variation.
Listen to the sound of Whinchat
Eurasia : West
Breeds in dry middle and lower middle latitudes, in Mediterranean, steppe, and desert fringe zones, mainly in lowlands.
In N-W Africa, only natural habitat in uplands is in tamarisk and vegetation bordering wadis.
Not attracted to natural maquis and forest, and avoids both mountains and bare plains. More attracted by man-made habitats such as parks, orange groves, gardens, and groups of prickly pear. In steppes, favours areas planted with bushes and trees.
Nest site is situated in thick bush or low tree, often near trunk. Nest loosely constructed untidy structure of fine twigs, trasses, and rootlets, lined with vegetable down, wool, hair, and feathers, and often a piece of snake skin. Building by both sexes.3-5 eggs, incubation 13 days tended by female only.
Mostly insects and earthworms, often rather large, occasionally fruit.
Feeding method varies with prey. Pursues ants, etc, on ground. Takes small Diptera and Hymenoptera from flowers, sometimes hovering to do so.
Locates earthworms by probing in soft ground, throwing earth aside with bill once worm found.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Essentially a trans-Saharan migrant, wintering in tropical Africa, though also regularly in Algeria and Iraq; other wintering records north of Sahara are exceptional but widely scattered through Mediterranean basin and western seaboard of Europe north to Britain. Wintering range extends from Senegal through Nigeria and Zaire to Uganda, and uncommonly in Kenya and Tanzania, south to Malawi and Zambia.
Birds leave north European breeding grounds in late August and September, with peak numbers on passage in western Europe in early September. First arrivals at wintering sites are in mid- or late September. Return passage begins February-March, continuing into early May.