Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

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The whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) is a small migratory passerine bird breeding in Europe and western Asia and wintering in Africa.

Its scientific name means “small rock-dweller”, in reference to its habitat. Saxicola derives from Latin saxum (“rock”) + incola (“dwelling”); rubetra is a Latin term for a small bird.

The whinchat is similar in size to its relative the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), 12–14 cm long and 13–26 g weight. Both sexes have brownish upperparts mottled darker, a buff throat and breast, a pale buff to whitish belly, and a blackish tail with white bases to the outer tail feathers.

The male in breeding plumage has blackish face mask almost encircled by a strong white supercilium and malar stripe, a bright orange-buff throat and breast, and small white wing patches on the greater coverts and inner median coverts. The female is duller overall, in particular having browner face mask, pale buffy-brown breast, and a buff supercilium and malar stripe, and smaller or no white wing patches. Males in immature and winter plumage and are similar to females, except that adult males retain the white wing patches all year.

Common bird in spring – summer.

photo: Mihai BACIU


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