Saturday, December 20, 2014

Common Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)

(14 cm.) Male: Black head; dark brown back; white patches on neck and wings; whitish rump; brown breast. Female: Duller than male; no black; light brown under parts; white patch on wing

The Common Stonechat, also known as the Siberian Stonechat, is a bird that has been recently reclassified by ornithologists and placed in a new family. Once considered a thrush, it has been now placed in the family, Muscicapidae, the family of flycatchers. Several sub-species of this bird can be found in Europe and Asia.

The bird derives its name from its voice which has been likened to the sound of two stones being struck together. This species is strict insectivore, like other members of the flycatcher family. It prefers open scrubby habitat where it can find low bushes in which it likes to perch and wait for its insect prey.

The Common Stonechat has a wide breeding range which covers most of temperate Asia. In China, its breeding range includes the northeast and central parts of the country. It generally only inhabits the East Coast of the country during its spring and fall migrations.

This bird seems particularly averse to cool temperatures and its northern breeding range and departs these regions as early as possible to avoid the rapid drop in temperature that can happen at these latitudes in early fall. Stonechats which breed in warmer regions usually do not migrate. If the breeding site of a Common Stonechat is warm come fall and winter, there will likely be no southward movement.

The Common Stonechat is indeed a common and widespread species that can fairly reliably be spotted in eastern China during its migrations in spring and fall.

Common Stonechat (Photo by Jose Sousa)

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