[order] Passeriformes | [family] Turdidae | [latin] Monticola saxatilis | [UK] Rock Thrush | [FR] Merle de roche | [DE] Steinrötel | [ES] Roquero rojo | [IT] Codirossone | [NL] Rode Rotslijster

Rode Rotslijster determination

copyright: C. Dortu

The male Rock Thrush is striking and unmistakable, with a grey-blue head, rich orange underparts, a red tail and a prominent white patch on its back. The female and immature birds are plainer brown but with dense crescent-shaped marks making the bird look barred or scalloped above and below. The only other birds with similar markings are female or immature Blue Rock Thrushes but these are much darker, slimmer, longer-headed and longer-tailed and they never have the red tail of a Rock Thrush. This red tail eliminates all other small birds except Redstarts which are smaller, slimmer and never look heavily barred.

Breeds in open, rocky habitats, usually in mountainous areas

Monticola saxatilis is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to much of southern Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (>100,000 pairs), but underwent a moderate decline between 1970-1990. Although the species was stable or increased across much of its European range during 1990-2000, it probably underwent a small decline overall, and its population has clearly not yet recovered to the level that preceded its initial decline. Consequently, it is provisionally evaluated as Depleted.

Mainly large inscts, especially beetles, Lepidoptera larvae, and Orthoptera. Feeds mainly by flying from perch on to prey on ground, may eat several items while on ground, sometimes running or hopping a few meters between each before returning to perch.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 200,000-630,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Earliest eggs late April, main season May-June, apparently throughout range. Nest site is a horizontal crevice in rock-face, wall, ruin, or crag, under boulder on steeply sloping ground, or occasionally in tree-hole. Nest is a neat cup of grass, rootlets, and moss, lined with finer rootlets and moss. 4-5 eggs are laid, incubation 14-15 days by female only.

Migratory. Most winter in Afrotropics, birds from eastern China travelling at least 7500 km from breeding to wintering grounds. A few birds appear to winter in Africa north of Sahara and in Arabian peninsula. Nocturnal migrant, usually travelling singly or in loose aggregations, often with Blue Rock Thrush. Main wintering area lies north and east of central African rain forests: from northern Nigeria and Cameroon (south to c. 8°30'N) east to Eritrea and from there south to at least 9°S in Tanzania. Mediterranean populations of southern Europe and north-west Africa begin to disperse from breeding sites in August, most having left by late September. Appears to cross Sahara on broad front from Morocco to Sinai, but especially common in central section. Reaches Chad mid-October, Nigeria late November. Occasional November-January records in Morocco, Ahaggar massif, Libya, and Egypt may indicate wintering north of Sahel zone by very small number. Most sites south of Sahara vacated by mid-March with stragglers remaining until at least mid-April. Passage noted in Sahara and on North African coast March-May with peak in late March and early April. However, first arrivals at southern breeding sites are usually in February, demonstrating that early passage in Africa overlooked. Northernmost European breeding sites usually reached April.