Identification: Male Stonechats, especially in spring are unmistakable, with their tricoloured plumage: black heads, orange breasts and big white blobs on the sides of the neck. The same pattern can just about be seen on females and juveniles but they are brown not black on the head and upperparts and the orange and white areas are much less pronounced. Some such birds may resemble Whinchats, but Stonechats have fatter bodies, shorter wings and longer tails and, above all, they have no eyestripe to break up their generally dark heads.
Habitat: Breeds and winters in heathland and sometimes moorland, especially gorse-covered heaths by the coast.
Distribution: A common resident bird, although local in east and central England, favouring heath and moorland. In winter birds disperse, often to coastal areas. Siberian Stonechats (of the race S.t.maura) are annual vagrants, mainly in the autumn on the east coast.
Widespread in western and southern Europe where they are likely to be found on almost any heathland, especially by the coast.
Population: 8 500-22 000 breeding pairs in Britain with range biased towards the southern and western coasts, particularly in Ireland where there are a further 7 500-18 750 breeding pairs.
1-2 million breeding pairs throughout Europe with the largest numbers in France, Spain and Italy.