Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush Monticola saxatilis


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 decreasing, however it is not thought to be decreasing sufficiently to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very 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 88,900-283,000 pairs, which equates to 178,000-566,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.20% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 890,000-2,830,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The European population is estimated to be decreasing by less than 25% in 11.4 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).


The species breeds on wild rocky mountainsides and high hills with scattered shrubs and sporadic grass cover, rocky heaths, extensive limestone screes, lava flows, eroded canyons, crags, open riverbeds, scrubby river gorges, boulder-strewn alpine meadows, upland farmland with stone walls and buildings, rocky ravines and valleys with stunted trees. In Europe it breeds from May to June, it breeds April-June in north-west Africa, end April-mid-July in Israel, May-June in Afghanistan and Pakistan, May-early August in Mongolia and May-July in China. It is territorial and the male performs display-flights over its territory. The nest is a neat flat cup of coarse grass, rootlets and moss, lined with moss and fine rootlets. Normally it is placed under a rock overhang or in a horizontal rock crevice, wall or ruin, sometimes under a boulder on steep hillside and occasionally in a tree hole. Nest sites are often used successively, including from year to year. Clutches are typically four to six eggs. It feeds principally on insects but also fruit and berries (Collar and Bonan 2015). Typically it forages by surveying from a perch then flying to the ground to take prey (Tucker and Heath 1994). The species is a nocturnal trans-Saharan migrant (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). European birds begin to leave their breeding grounds from August to September. Aside from a small number wintering in the southern Arabian Peninsula the entire species overwinters in Africa (Collar and Bonan 2015).


Declines in Europe may be owing to habitat loss in both summer and winter quarters through afforestation and tourism development, as well as succession following pastoral abandonment in Europe. The proportion of upland pasture (i.e. overgrazed, barren hill country) in Franconia fell from 20% in 1850 to 1% in 1995 (Collar and Bonan 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within its European range.

Conservation Actions Proposed
The protection of its mountainous breeding grounds should be ensured by preventing afforestation, regulating tourism and preserving pastoral practices. Monitoring programmes and research into the species's ecology will help develop future conservation measures.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.

Dowsett, R.J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Monticola saxatilis. Downloaded from on 30/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/06/2022.