Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 5,790,000-9,310,000 pairs, which equates to 11,600,000-18,600,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.20% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 58,000,000-93,000,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. The European population trend between 1989 and 2013 was stable (EBCC 2015).

Distribution and population


This species is found in a variety of essentially open, usually rather barren landscapes. In Europe, it occupies open scrubby country where bushes and shrubs of different height, and/or low man-made structures such as stone walls, fence lines, telephone wires and field posts, sit within or adjacent to flat or rolling terrain with uneven herb-rich substrate. It also inhabits alpine moorland, heathland, grassy hillsides, dry plains, bush-studded pastures, woodland edge, sandy forest clearings, field margins and fallows, wide shrubby riverbeds, open garrigue with Cistus, unkempt marshy areas, swamp fringes, roadsides and railway margins and vineyards.

The breeding season is from March to mid-August in north-west Europe and from the end of April to late July in eastern Europe across Asia to Japan, but from mid-May in northern Russia, April-August in the Himalayas, February-June in Morocco, March in Senegal, April in Sierra Leone, January in Nigeria and March in Cameroon, December-March in Bioko, August-September in southern Democratic Republic of Congo, April-May in Sudan and Ethiopia, February-March in Uganda, January-June (mainly March-May) in Kenya, September-February in northern Tanzania and August-November in southern Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, July-December (mainly August-November) in Zimbabwe, August-December in South Africa and September-December in Lesotho. The nest is a loose deep cup of rootlets, grass, leaves and plant stems, lined with finer rootlets and sometimes hair, wool and feathers. It is set on the ground or in a low bank, well hidden at base of tuft of herbage or in the bottom of or under a small bush. Clutches are usually four to six eggs. The diet is primarily invertebrates, mainly small or medium-sized insects and their larvae but it occasionally takes small vertebrates, seeds and fruit (Collar 2015). The species varies from migratory to resident in different parts of its range, being sensitive to cold weather (Snow and Perrins 1998).


Declines in Europe since the 1950s have been driven by a loss of breeding habitats due to agricultural intensification (Collar 2015), including the creation of large open fields, destruction of bushes and hedges, transformation of pastures to arable fields, the afforestation of fallow and moorland and the destruction of structurally diverse vegetation by uncontrolled fire and human disturbance (Tucker and Heath 1994). It has also suffered from the withdrawal of grazing from littoral heaths in Europe (Collar 2015). Severe winters have also caused populations to fluctuate (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. Bern Convention Appendix II. In Switzerland, the species has benefited from the creation of strips of wild flowers for Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix).

Conservation Actions Proposed
In Europe this species requires wide-scale conservation measures to preserve habitat through promotion of non-intensive farming practices. These include retaining scattered trees, bushes and hedges in fields, prohibition of afforestation schemes on moorland and heath, and retention of strips of old grass (mown every 3–4 years only) in intensively managed areas (Tucker and Heath 1994).


Text account compilers
Clark, J.

Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Saxicola torquatus. Downloaded from on 23/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/09/2023.