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The quintessential bird of the heath and downland seen perched on the gorse, or scrub, even the taller heather clumps.

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Stonechat: rolling stones

Post date: Wednesday, 2 March, 2016 - 00:00

If you asked me to choose the quintessential bird of the heath and downland of Purbeck I would have to choose the stonechat (Saxicola torquatus). All year round you will see them perched on the gorse, on scrub, even the taller heather clumps.

My photo represents the typical view you will get of this lovely little bird, the male resplendent in his smart attire with the black head and white collar, the female similar but without such a dark head. 

In spring, the first you may know of their presence is their strange call, like two stones being knocked together, hence its name.
Although widespread in much of Purbeck and southern Dorset where there is gorse and scrub the stonechat is less frequent on other habitats but it can crop up in other places. This species is doing well in Dorset and I, for one, sincerely hope it stays that way. For me, it is the bird of the heath!

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Stonechat
Scientific Name Saxicola torquatus
Status Locally frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Chats
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Downland and scrub
  • Heathland
Look for The conspicuous white collar of the male
Additional Identification Notes
  • One of the most frequent species of the downs and of heaths
  • Often sit on gorse or bramble bushes
  • Make a distinctive sound like two stones being knocked together 

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
H1: Dry Heath Associated