Last week a couple of European Stonechats were certainly living up to their description as ‘one of the easiest to observe due to its conspicuousness’. Unlike last year it was the female we spotted first last week. As we walked she kept flying a few yards infront of us to perch for a new moments on the next shrub. Officially of course their perching behaviour is how they hunt for food, however it seemed to me last week she was wanting me to photograph her!
Their English name derives from their alarm call, which sounds like two stones being tapped together. Our two were not bothered by us last week and so were almost silent as they swooped along in front of us. I wanted you though to hear the sound of stones chatting so I have downloaded Lisa Boocock‘s audio recording from the excellent Xeno-Canto website:
As with many birds the male plumage is more distinctive than the females, and the plumage for both sexes is ‘usually’ more colourful in the breeding season. I’ve added the ‘usually’ because we’ve noticed on more than one occasion here in the Algarve some birds winter plumage is almost the same as their summer plumage, and these Stonechats were no exception. Even at a distance with the naked eye I could make out the orange breast of the female, and it isn’t just the light.
The male has black upperparts, a black head, white half-collar, an orange throat and breast, and a white belly and vent. Whereas the female has brown upperparts and head to accompany the orange breast. Many online descriptions continue by stating the females have no white neck patches, rump or belly, so for a few moments I was doubting my identification as this female clearly has a whitish patch. Fortunately though we have some great birding books plus I found a very helpful online Bird Field Guide which confirmed I was right and this was a female. The female ‘white’ patches may be closer to cream than the white of the males but that throat looked very distinctive to me.