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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Stonechat

Hebrides Bird Sightings : Stonechat
Adult male Stonechat in breeding plumage


Saxicola torquata

Gaelic: Gocan, Clacharan


Photograph John S Hamilton © Land of Nature Photography
Sheshader - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
9th August, 2005


Our Stonechat photographs

Bird Sightings : Stonechat

Bird Sightings : Stonechat

Bird Sightings : Stonechat

Bird Sightings : Stonechat


  • Stonechat
  • Saxicola torquata
  • Gaelic: Gocan, Clacharan
  • UK: AMBER LIST, 15,000 pairs (summer) BTO
  • UK: Resident/migrant breeder
  • WI: Uncommon resident or migrant breeder (10-99 breeding pairs). Scarce in Lewis and Harris
  • Breeds: Nests beneath gorse bushes, heather. Resident in Europe, Asia, Africa.
  • Habitat: Heaths, scrub, conifer plantations, coastal sites, open country
  • Diet: Insect-eater. Hunts from perch, also forages seeds & fruits (berries) on ground
  • Plump little bird, about the same size of a robin (11.5-13cm). Pointed Beak. Shows white rump (above tail) when flying. Breeding male strong coloured orange-buff breast. Black head & throat. Dark-brown upperparts. Contrasting white patch on cheek-neck area. Faded in autumn.
    Female similar pattern, but brown instead of black. More heavily streaked. Paler orange-tinged breast
  • Max recorded age 8yrs 1mth.
  • Listen to a Stonechat (RSPB site) Call is like two stones tapped together "trak- trak"
  • Similar birds: Whinchat


Male and female stonechats are different, the male is a dandy in springtime, with an orange-buff breast strong in tint, set off by a black head and throat, with dark brown upperparts, and a contrasting white patch on the cheek-neck area.(It all looks a little faded come autumn)

Female stonechats have a similar pattern, but they are brown instead of black, more heavily streaked, and the orange tinge to the breast is less vibrant.

Stonechats show white in the rump area (above tail) when flying, as do Wheatears and Meadow-Pipits and they are often found in the same areas.

They particulary like to nest in the protection of gorse and heather scrub, generally on the ground beneath the bushes. An estimated 9,000 to 23,000 pairs of stonechats breed in the UK. The Stonechat is in decline in Europe and is on the amber conservation list.

Often seen in springtime, male and female together, accompanying you on a walk for quite a way along a lane, in moorland or grassland (until you are well out of their territory), repeatedly flying just a little ahead then perching, and giving the alarm call "trak- trak". Stonechats perch in raised areas, tops of bushes, fence wires, etc.

Parents and young travel feeding together as a family until quite late in the autumn.


Stonechat records in the Western Isles

Saxicola ruberta hibernans is an uncommon resident or migrant breeder (10-99 breeding pairs). Scarce in Lewis and Harris

Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Stonechat is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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