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Description: Manx name: Boid y Chonnee (Point of the Gorse).

Stonechats (Saxicola torquata) are commonly encountered in the Isle of Man, especially on coasts and heathland. Their habit of watching you nervously from a vantage point on top of gorse or on a fence post is reflected in the Manx name, which means 'Point of the Gorse'. They will often utter an alarm call while doing this - a characteristic sound, like someone clacking pebbles together.

These birds begin breeding early in the year and can have up to three broods. This is a specimen of an immature bird which was found dead on a hillside in the south of the Island, notably lighter in colour and more streaked than the adult male (which has a blackish brown head, back and tail). Female birds are similar to immatures of both sexes, and it is sometimes possible during the breeding season to see members of a whole family of stonechats flitting about in the same area, all keeping an eye out for danger from high points in the vegetation.

Prolonged harsh winter weather can have a big impact on stonechats, and there have been several population crashes in the Isle of Man over the last century. However, numbers do recover eventually as long as there is enough suitable habitat. The Manx Bird Atlas (2007) found 426 - 464 breeding pairs and 1,000 overwintering individuals.

References: Sharpe, C.M. (ed) 2007. Manx Bird Atlas. Liverpool University Press; Cullen, J.P. & Jennings, P.P. 1986 Birds of the Isle of Man. Bridgeen Publications, Douglas, Isle of Man.

Date found: 2000.07.02

Taxonomic name: Saxicola torquata

Collection: Natural History Zoology Collection

ID number: 2002-0161


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