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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Whinchat

Saxicola rubetra

  • Family: Flycatchers – Muscicapidae
  • Appearance: A small, short-tailed, thickset, mainly yellowish brown, black and white member of the flycatcher family. Black-tipped pale outermost tail feathers prominent when in flight. Thrives in open terrain.
  • Size: Length 12–14 cm, weight 14–18 g.
  • Nest: Well concealed, on the ground often beside a ditch or a hummock, made of moss and grass, lined with fine grass and a few feathers, but no leaves.
  • Breeding: 4–8 eggs laid in May, incubated by female for 12–14 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 12–13 days, and learn to fly at the age of 17–19 days.
  • Distribution: Nests in farmland, marshy meadows and grassy roadside verges. Breeds as far north as Central Lapland. Finnish breeding population estimated at 200,000–300,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Nocturnal. Flies south August–September, returning April–June. Winters in tropical Africa.
  • Diet: Invertebrates.
  • Calls: A short whistle and a sharp alarm call “hyu-tek”. Song short and chirpy with characteristic intermittent tuneless rasping sounds.

Whinchats are small, thickset, short-tailed birds with distinctive dark and light markings. Males in summer plumage have orange colouring on their chests, a bright white eye-stripe, and blackish brown cheek patches. Their caps are dark with dense streaking. Their backs, rumps and shoulders are yellowish brown with black speckles. Their wings and tail are mainly dark with white patches. Females and juveniles are duller in colouring, with brown cheeks, a yellowish eye-stripe and smaller white markings on their wings and tail.

In their autumn plumage, Whinchats appear more uniformly rusty brown. They have black legs and beaks, and their irises are dark brown.

When searching for food, Whinchats stand erect on conspicuous features such as tall plants, hay-poles or telephone wires.

Other species from the same family

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