British wildlife recordings
Saxicola torquata : Common Stonechat - Turdidae
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Yarner Wood, Devon: OS Grid Reference(277500,78500)
Stonechat, Saxicola torquata
The call of the stonechat, recorded at Yarmer Wood, Devon. Unlike its close relative, the whinchat, the perky stonechat chooses to stay in Britain all year round. It is an active and restless bird with an upright stance and a habit of constantly flicking its wings and tail. In spring, the male has a black head with white patches, and an orange breast in comparison to the more washed-out female. The stonechat is primarily a bird of lowland heaths and coastal areas with abundant gorse, on which it is often perches. The male's call resembles the sounds of two pebbles being struck together, explaining the origin of its name. Its diet consists of a range of insects and spiders, which is supplemented during harsh winters by seeds and fruits. The female builds an untidy nest of grass under a bush or shrub and the male will continue to feed any fledged chicks, enabling the female to lay another brood. Stonechats are capable of rearing three or four broods during the breeding season, which helps offset a high mortality rate in harsh winters. There are between 9,000 and 23,000 pairs breeding in Britain, and despite a decline in numbers during the 1970s and 1980s due to agricultural intensification and the overuse of pesticides, current numbers are thought to have stabilised.