Saxicola rubetra | Whinchat | Caislín aitinn



Conservation status

This species is Red-listed according to Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2020-2026 and is of high conservation value as a result.

According to the last IUCN Red List assessment in 2016, the Whinchat is a species of ‘Least Concern’ on a global scale. A decreasing population trend has been noted however. 

Species Biology


The Whinchat is a small species of passerine (perching bird) that can be identified by its brown back with streaks of black and white, orange breast with a contrasting whitish belly and a pronounced white stripe above the eye.

Adult males have a darker head with a wider supercilium and may appear quite similar to a Stonechat in terms of size and appearance. The female has a browner head and the supercilium is not as white.

The Whinchat stands at 12-13 cm in length with a wingspan of 21-24 cm and weighing 16-24 grams. 


Winchat primarily feed on invertebrates such as insects but will also feed on seeds and berries given the opportunity.


Whinchat are found in a variety of habitat types from uplands with bracken cover to open grasslands, meadows and scrubland habitats.

A good population of invertebrate food items is an important feature of a suitable habitat for Whinchat. 


The Whinchat lays a clutch of 5-6 eggs, each weighing approximately 2.1 grams. These eggs are incubated for 13 days, and fledge after 14-15 days.

A wild Whinchat has a life expectancy of approximately two years and will breed at one year old.

Threats faced

The loss of marginal agricultural land and scrub is considered a significant reason for this decline (Gilbert, Stanbury and Lewis, 2021).


World distribution(GBIF)

Irish distribution

The Whinchat is a summer visitor to Ireland from parts of Western Africa where it spends its winters.

The Irish breeding population has declined in recent time with loss of suitable habitat playing a significant factor in their decline. 

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

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Gilbert, G., Stanbury, A. and Lewis, L., 2021. Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 4: 2020-2026. [online] Wicklow. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Jun. 2021].