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Birdwatching in Africa - African Stonechat, Saxicola torquatus

The African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus) is a species of the Old World flycatcher family (Muscicapidae), inhabiting sub-Saharan Africa and adjacent regions. Like the other chats, it was long assigned to the thrush family (Turdidae), to which the chats are convergent. Its scientific name refer to its appearance and habitat and means "collared rock-dweller": Saxicola from Latin saxum ("rock") + incola ("one who dwells in a place"), torquatus, Latin for "collared".

In the past S. torquatus usually referred to the entire "Common Stonechat" superspecies and some sources still keep it that way, but all available evidence strongly supports full species status for the European (S. rubicola) and the Siberian stonechat (S. maurus) of temperate Eurasia, in addition to the island-endemics Fuerteventura chat (S. dacotiae) and Réunion stonechat (S. tectes) which were never unequivocally accepted into S. torquata.

The Madagascan stonechat is also considered distinct. In addition, the well-marked populations of the Horn of Africa uplands may well qualify for an additional species.

Common Stonechat

Common stonechat is the name used for the Saxicola species Saxicola torquatus when this is treated in its broad sense.

It is, however, now more widely considered to be a superspecies consisting of several related but distinct species, which are outwardly fairly similar but genetically distinct and replacing each other geographically without significant hybridisation:

• African stonechat Saxicola torquatus in the strict sense
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Siberian stonechat Saxicola maurus
• Stejneger's stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri
• Madagascan stonechat Saxicola sibilla

Three other species, not previously included within the broad view of common stonechat, have also been shown to be members of the superspecies:
• Fuerteventura chat Saxicola dacotiae
• Reunion stonechat Saxicola tectes
• White-tailed stonechat Saxicola leucurus

Species status possible, but not yet verified:
• Ethiopian stonechat Saxicola (torquatus) albofasciatus

Not all of the above are currently recognised as full species by all of the relevant taxonomical authorities, for example the British Ornithologists' Union, currently include stejnegeri as a subspecies of Saxicola maurus.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Distribution and habitat
It has a scattered distribution across much of sub-Saharan Africa, occurring locally as far north as Senegal and Ethiopia. Outlying populations are found the mountains of southwest Arabia and on Madagascar and Grande Comore. It is non-migratory, moving only locally if at all. As a result, it has developed much regional variation, being divided into about 15 subspecies.

Range map from

Range map
Range map from - Ornithological Portal is one of those MUST visit pages if you're in to bird watching. You can find just about everything there

Systematics and taxonomy
African Stonechat formerly included in Common Stonechat.

In 1760 the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the African Stonechat in his Ornithologie based on a specimen collected from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. He used the French name Le gobe-mouche à collier du Cap de Bonne Espérance and the Latin Muscicapa Torquata Capitis Bonae Spei.

Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. When in 1766 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition, he added 240 species that had been previously described by Brisson.

One of these was the African Stonechat. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial name Muscicapa torquata and cited Brisson's work. The specific name is from Latin torquatus "collared". This species is now placed in the genus Saxicola that was introduced by the German naturalist Johann Matthäus Bechstein in 1802.

The closest relative of this species are apparently not the Eurasian populations but the Réunion stonechat (S. tectes), but still the "white-collared" Saxicola form a distinct group in the genus. S. torquatus and S. tectes form a sub-Saharan African lineage that diverged from the Eurasian one in the Late Pliocene, roughly 2.5 million years ago.

Réunion was colonized shortly thereafter, indicating a rapid expansion along the Indian Ocean coast of Africa. With the Sahara drying out in the subsequent Quaternary glaciation, the African and Eurasian populations became isolated for good.

The recent separation as species was proposed after mtDNA cytochrome b sequence and nDNA microsatellite fingerprinting analysis of specimens of the subspecies Saxicola torquatus axillaris but not S. t. torquatus, and hence this species was briefly known as S. axillaris.

There are 13 recognised subspecies. They differ slightly in size, and more in the extent of the orange-red on the upper breast of the males, and whether the lower breast is white with a distinct boundary from the upper breast, or pale orange with an indistinct boundary from the darker upper breast. The extent of the orange-red also varies with time of year, often extending on to the belly outside the breeding season.

• S. t. felix Bates, 1936 – southwest Saudi Arabia and west Yemen

•S. t. albofasciatus Rüppell, 1840 – southeast Sudan and northeast Uganda to central Ethiopia
Upper breast black, not orange-red

•S. t. jebelmarrae Lynes, 1920 – east Chad and west Sudan

•S. t. moptanus Bates, 1932 – Senegal and south Mali

The smallest subspecies.

•S. t. nebularum Bates, 1930 – Tropical West Africa from Sierra Leone to west Ivory Coast
Extensive orange-red on breast and also flanks.

•S. t. axillaris (Shelley, 1885) – east Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, north and west Tanzania

•S. t. promiscuus Hartert, 1922 – south Tanzania to east Zimbabwe and west Mozambique
Very limited orange-red on uppermost part of breast only.

•S. t. salax (Verreaux, J & Verreaux, E, 1851) – east Nigeria to northwest Angola, Bioko Island

•S. t. stonei Bowen, 1931 – east and south Angola to southwest Tanzania south to north South Africa and Botswana

•S. t. clanceyi Courtenay-Latimer, 1961 – coastal west South Africa

•S. t. torquatus (Linnaeus, 1766) – central South Africa

•S. t. oreobates Clancey, 1956 – Lesotho

•S. t. voeltzkowi Grote, 1926 – Grande Comore

The males have a black head, a white half-collar, a black back, a white rump, and a black tail; the wings are black with a large white patch on the top side of the inner wing. The upper breast is usually dark orange-red, with a sharp or gradual transition to white or pale orange on the lower breast and belly depending on subspecies. In a few, black replaces the orange breast feathers in part or entirely.

Females have brown rather than black above and on the head with an indistinct paler eyebrow line, chestnut-buff rather than orange below, and less white on the wings. Both sexes' plumage is somewhat duller and streakier outside the breeding season.[

Length: 12 cm
Weight: 13 - 17 gr
Distinctive Feature
Similar Species

From opus at the forum for wild birds and birding.

Female VS Male

African Stonechat, Saxicola torquatus
Ethiopia - November 2019

African Stonechat, Saxicola torquatus
Ethiopia - November 2019

Listen to the African Stonechat

Remarks from the Recordist

Pre-dawn song

Conservation status
Conservation status

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sighted: (Date of first photo that I could use) 6 November 2019
Location: Dinsho Wetland, Ethiopia

African Stonechat, Saxicola torquatus
African Stonechat - 6 November 2019 - Dinsho Wetland, Ethiopia

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