30 January 2013

Common Stonechat S. t. rubicola – Dhahran Hills

There are a number of different races of Stonechat that occur in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and I photographed this male Stonechat in the spray fields a couple of days ago. The spray fields are a good area to see Siberian Stonechat ‘maurus’ and at least two are currently present. Male Siberian Stonechat ‘maurus’ are often striking, but things are complicated by the appearance of some brighter, more contrasting Continental Common Stonechats S. t. rubicola from the north (Continental Europe). Spring 'maurus' can still usually be identified by carefully looking at the rump and upper-tail covert pattern as well as the under-wing colour, the extent of the neck collar and breast and flank pattern (male 'maurus' has black axillaries and under-wing coverts and this subspecies probably never shows obviously dark-streaked flanks as shown by many rubicola). This bird although closely resembling 'maurus' seemed to fit Continental Common Stonechat 'rubicola' better as it had a broad white rump and upper-tail coverts with slight grey shaft-streaking and tips to some of these upper tail-coverts. It also had an orange breast with extensive white belly extending to the centre of the breast and white flanks and a large white neck patch, which are considered characters of S. t. rubicola (Walker 2001) (Urquhart 2002). Fine dark shaft-streaks on the rear flank just above the legs are a feature more commonly seen in S. t. rubicola than S. t. maurus. In flight, its large white shoulder patches and large area of white on the rump were obvious; however, the pure white part of the rump is somewhat restricted and does not extend onto the lower back, features fitting S. t. rubicola (Hellstrom & Waern 2011).

Hellstrom, M & Waern, M. 2011. Field identification and ageing of Siberian Stonechats in spring and summer. Brit. Birds 104: 5: 236-254.
Urquhart, E. 2002. Stonechats: a guide to the genus Saxicola. Christopher Helm, London.
Walker, D. 2001. Apparent Continental Stonechats in England. Birding World Vol. 14 No. 4: 156-158.