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An autumn migrant seen on the heath as well has the cliff tops. Much rarer on spring migration.



Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Whinchat: on the wild side

Post date: Wednesday, 20 July, 2016 - 16:06

Some migrant species are seen regularly in autumn as they pass through Dorset heading south for the winter but are less likely to be seen on the return journey in spring. The whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) is one of those birds that fall into this category. I think, in spring, these birds have a single driving force that keeps them on the wing until they reach their breeding grounds. On the return journey there is less pressure and they take their time and stop off to feed as they tackle the long journey ahead of them.

The whinchat is a relative of the stonechat and both like wild places to live but whilst the stonechat is quite common on the heaths and scrubby cliff tops of Dorset it is not wild enough for the whinchat that likes the upland moors further north. The stonechat does not migrate like the whinchat that will over winter in Africa. Although related and similar the whinchat has a more upright posture that the stonechat and so gives the impression of having a slimmer figure.

Whin is an alternative name for gorse and they certainly do like have a liking for gorse and scrub.



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 Whinchat
Scientific Name Saxicola rubetra
Status Scarce
Interest Level
Species Family Chats
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Preferred Environment
  • Downland and scrub
Look for A stonechat-like bird but more slender and lacking the white collar
Additional Identification Notes
  • Only seen on migration in Dorset, more often in spring than autumn
  • It is a much more slender bird than the stonechat and lacks the bold markings of the stonechat
  • Loves open scrubby habitat and rarely seen anywhere other than this