Stonechat – 1994

Saxicola torquata – CLOCHDAR Y CERRIG – Breeding resident

Breeding confirmed71
Breeding probable24
Breeding possible31
No of tetrads occupied126 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads26.4%

Mathew (1894) said “this little species is so numerous, to be seen everywhere by the roadside, perched on the furze on every common, on the coast as well as far inland, that it is likely to be considered one of our characteristic county birds”. Lockley et al. (1949) found the Stonechat to be a common resident on all furzy commons and escarpments in the county and noted that they sometimes bred on the offshore islands.

The Breeding Birds Survey of 1984-1988 found that they were very local inland but were well distributed around the coast. The survey began after the population had been reduced by the cold winter of 1982, which would probably have affected the inland birds more severely than those on the coast. There is also less suitable habitat remaining in inland Pembrokeshire than there was in 1949. By the end of the survey, about 200 pairs were estimated to have bred (see map), but this level is below optimum.

Numbers have been decimated by many severe winters in the past. The winter of 1947 almost wiped them out (Lockley et al. 1949) and that of 1962/63 also left very few survivors (Donovan 1963). Numbers recover rapidly in subsequent summers largely because of high productivity, with some pairs rearing three broods in a year. A pair at Cwmbrandy, Fishguard, was suspected of rearing four broods in 1962. Breeding is still sporadic on the offshore islands of Skomer and Ramsey, with Stonechats disappearing after severe winters and recolonising again when the general population is at a high level. 

They occur on the islands, including Grassholm and the Smalls, after the breeding season, when they also become more widespread in the county generally, occupying more diverse habitat than during the summer. It is likely that some of our breeding stock moves out of the county. Apparent falls on headlands suggest that some movement takes place and one ringed at Skokholm in September 1960 was recovered in Spain that November. Siberian Stonechats subspecies maura or stejnegeri were noted at Strumble Head on 12 October 1986 (G.H. Rees et al.) and at Skokholm from 11 to 15 October 1990 and 20 October 1992.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

DONOVAN,J.W. 1963. Bird notes. Nature in Wales 8:205.

More about the Stonechat in Pembrokeshire