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The Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus) is a recently-validated species of the Old World flycatcher family. It breeds in temperate Asia and easternmost Europe and winters in the Old World tropics.

Description[]

It resembles its closest living relative the European Stonechat (S. rubicola), but is typically darker above and paler below, with a white rump and whiter underparts with less orange on the breast. The male in breeding plumage has black upperparts and head (lacking the brownish tones of the European Stonechat), a conspicuous white collar, scapular patch and rump, and a restricted area of orange on the throat.

The female has pale brown upperparts and head, white neck patches (not a full collar), and a pale, unstreaked pinkish-yellow rump. Males in winter plumage are intermediate between summer males and females, with a supercilium resembling the Whinchat (S. rubetra); from this species and the female it can be distinguished by the full white collar.

If seen at close distance, it can be recognized that its primary remiges are distinctly longer than in S. rubicola. In this, it closely resembles the Whinchat, which like S. maurus is adapted to long-distance migrations.

The male has a clicking call, like two pebbles knocked together. The song is high and twittering like the Dunnock (Prunella modularis), an unrelated passeridan songbird belonging to the Passeroidea.

Distribution and ecology[]

The breeding range covers most of temperate Asia, from about latitude 71°N in Siberia south to the Himalaya and southwest China, and west to eastern Turkey and the Caspian Sea area. It also breeds in the far northeast of Europe, mainly in Russia but occasionally as far west as Finland.

The wintering range of the migratory bird is from southern Japan south to Thailand and India, and west to northeast Africa. On migration, small numbers reach as far west as western Europe, and exceptionally as far east as Alaska in North America.

The Siberian Stonechat is insectivorous. It breeds in open rough scrubland or rough grassland with scattered shrubs, from sea level to about 4,000 m ASL or more. The birds seem to avoid even cool temperate conditions and stay up north only during the hot continental summer. In the montane regions of the Himalaya foothills of Bhutan, migrants can on occasion be seen foraging in fields and pastures more than 2,000 m ASL, but most move further down and south to winter in tropical regions.

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