Whinchat

Whinchat

Scientific name: Saxicola rubetra

Did you know: The Whinchat, a charming summer visitor to the UK, sports a distinctive white eye stripe and orange-buff chest. These birds are known for their playful ground-hopping and love for perching on low bushes. 

What Do Whinchats Look Like? (How to Identify Them)

Whinchats, small perching birds resembling the European robin, measure around 13 centimetres in length and weigh between 13-26 grams. They boast streaky brown upperparts, buff throats and breasts, and a black-coloured tail with feathers that have white bases. 

Whinchats are often mistaken for stonechats, but they can be differentiated by their conspicuous supercilium and whiter belly.

Differences Between Male And Female Whinchats

The males that are in their breeding plumage exhibit a striking black face mask that’s circled by a white-coloured supercilium, a malar stripe, and a vibrant orange throat and breast. 

Females, on the other hand, are duller in colour. Their distinctive features include a noticeable white eye stripe, and during the breeding season, males showcase small white wing marks. 

What Do Whinchats Eat?

Whinchats are insectivores, with about 80-90% of their diet consisting of insects. Additionally, they consume a variety of invertebrates, including spiders, small snails, and worms. During autumn, a small amount of fruit, such as blackberries, is also part of their diet. 

These birds showcase their acrobatic skills by perching on elevated spots like shrubs and making sallies to catch insects, often flicking their tail and wings to display white flashes.

Where Do Whinchats Live? (Including Migration Info)

Whinchats are migratory birds, breeding in the UK and western Asia and wintering in central Africa. In the UK, they favour upland areas of northern and western Britain, with some breeding in Ireland. Arriving between April and May, they depart between August and September, with occasional lingerers until October. 

During the breeding season, Whinchats prefer habitats with high plant species richness at a landscape scale.

Bird Calls & Songs (The Unique Voices of Whinchats)

The Whinchat’s main call is a distinctive hue-tac-tac, softer than that of the European stonechat. This call serves for contact between birds and predator alarms. 

During the breeding season, the male serenades with a whistling, crackly but soft song, a melodic blend of soft whistles, tacs, and grating sounds. Remarkably, the male’s song often includes phrases mimicking at least 12 other bird species. The singing season typically spans from April to July.

Fun Whinchat Facts (Kid Friendly)

  • Whinchats embark on an incredible migration journey, travelling to Africa for the winter.
  • Male Whinchats flaunt vibrant orange-buff throats and breasts during the breeding season.
  • Whinchats are skilled insect hunters, catching their prey with swift movements while perched on elevated spots.
  • These birds have a unique call, described as hue-tac-tac, and a captivating song that mimics other bird species.
  • The distinctive white eye stripe of Whinchats adds to their charming appearance.

Facts About The Whinchat

Diet: Insects and some seeds.
Bird Family: Chats
Length: 12.5 cm
Wingspan: 21-24 cm
Weight: 16-24 g
Scientific Name: Saxicola rubetra

The Whinchat Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October

Whinchat Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile