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Whinchat Male Whinchat Male
Brown upperparts, apricot underparts and bold white eye stripe.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Saxicola rubetra
Length: 12.5 cm  (4½ ")
Wing Span: 21-24 cm  (8-10")
Weight: 16-24 g  (½-¾ oz) Female Whinchat Female
Like the male but duller and paler.
Breeding Pairs: 20 000
Present: Summer
Status: Amber
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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The Whinchat is a bird of the heath and similar to the darker, plumper Stonechat. They are a little smaller than a House Sparrow.

The male has streaked brown upperparts. The ear coverts and lores are black with a white border and there is a broad white stripe above the eyes. There is also a white wing patch. The underparts are a deep buff or apricot colour. The bill and legs are black.

The female is duller than the male.

Juvenile birds are like females but the eye stripe is less distinct and there is spotting on the breast.


Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Song
  Quicktime mp3

In the summer, on the moors, Whinchats can be heard singing their rasping song from a low perch.


Whinchats feed on insects and their larvae, but also seeds and berries. The insects are usually found on the ground but sometimes caught in flight like a flycatcher.


The nest is built by the female from dead grass and moss, and lined with fine grasses and hair. The nest is usually on the ground among tall grass on moors and heaths.

The smooth, glossy eggs are light greenish-blue with reddish-brown speckling, and about 19 mm by 14 mm. Incubation is by the female only. The young are fed by both parents.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
May 1-2 4-7 13-14 13-14


The Whinchat is a summer visitor, here from April-May until August-September. They winter in tropical Africa, south of the Sahara.


There has been a decline in the Whinchat population but more noticeably they have practically disappeared from eastern and central England because of the loss of marginal farmland habitats.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

The Whinchat is a moor land bird and so it was a great surprise to see a pair - male and female - in the garden with three more birds perched in neighbours' trees. They stayed in the gardens for about an hour.

With them arriving at the beginning of April it is likely that these birds were returning from their wintering grounds in Africa and were resting briefly before continuing to either British moor land or Scandinavia.

Last revision: 01 Jul 2010
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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