STONECHAT (Saxicola torquata)

Tarier pâtre

 

Although it can be found up to about 1200 m the Stonechat is essentially a lowland bird in Switzerland being found most commonly below 600m around Lac Léman. It inhabits open scrubby country, grasslands and disturbed habitats. Although wary of human presence it will sit high on a song-post to deliver its songs and calls - the summit of a pine tree or a tall bush. With its dark black head and white patch on the side of the neck the male is very distinctive when it sits in such a position.

The Stonechat gets its name from its most common call - a sharp "tchak" often repeated which sounds exactly like two stones being knocked together:

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Although it sounds like an alarm call I think this is also a generalised call, used for territorial purposes and contact, as well as alarm situations. The full alarm call is also the "tchak" call but is often preceded by a high-pitched "hweet":

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It is usually only heard singing very early in the morning - from a  high perch as always. The song is a rapid, somewhat rattling warble - almost a snatch of sound:

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It is not an easy song to pick out as the phrases vary a lot between individuals and even within one individual and so there is no real consistent pattern to it other than the jerky little phrases, you can see this in a sonogram of just three phrases:

The notes in each phrase can be more easily followed if we look at it played at half speed:

 

 

 

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