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Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) male, Beaulieu, Hampshire.jpg
Male European stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)
Calls made by a European stonechat, recorded on Old Dean Common, Surrey, England
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Muscicapidae
Genus: Saxicola
Bechstein, 1802
Type species
Motacilla rubicola
Linnaeus, 1766

See text

female pied bushchat (Saxicola caprata bicolor), India

Saxicola (Latin: saxum, rock + incola, dwelling in[1]), the stonechats or chats, is a genus of 15 species of small passerine birds restricted to the Old World. They are insectivores occurring in open scrubland and grassland with scattered small shrubs.


The genus was introduced by the German naturalist Johann Matthäus Bechstein in 1802.[2] The type species was subsequently designated as the European stonechat.[3] The name Saxicola is from Latin saxum, saxi "stone" and -cola "dweller".[4]

The genus was formerly included in the thrush family Turdidae, but as with several other related genera, has now been shown to be correctly classified in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae, in which it is most closely related to the genera Oenanthe (wheatears) and Campicoloides.[5][6]

Genetic and behavioural evidence has also resulted in several new species being accepted in the genus in recent years, most notably the splitting of the former broad "species" common stonechat Saxicola torquatus into five species, a change now widely though not yet universally accepted. With addition of mtDNA cytochrome b sequence and nDNA fingerprinting data, it was confirmed that not only the Fuerteventura and Réunion stonechats are distinct species, but that in addition, the African, Madagascar, European, Siberian and Amur stonechats are also all separate species.[7][8][9][10] Due to confusion of subspecies allocation, the name S. torquatus was briefly used for the European species, with the African stonechat being incorrectly listed as S. axillaris.[8]

Owing to misunderstandings of Latin syntax, several species have in the past been widely but incorrectly cited with feminine name endings ("S. torquata, S. maura, S. leucura, S. ferrea", etc.).[11]


The following 15 species are currently accepted in Saxicola:[12]

Formerly included in the genus Saxicola, but now treated in a separate genus:

Fossil record[edit]

  • Saxicola lambrechti (Late Miocene of Polgardi, Hungary) [14]
  • Saxicola baranensis (Pliocene of Beremend, Hungary)[14]
  • Saxicola parva (Pliocene of Csarnota, Hungary)[14]
  • Saxicola magna (Pliocene of Beremend, Hungary)[14]


  1. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London, United Kingdom: Christopher Helm. p. 349. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4..
  2. ^ Bechstein, Johann Matthäus (1802). Ornithologisches Taschenbuch von und für Deutschland, oder, Kurze Beschreibung aller Vögel Deutschlands für Liebhaber dieses Theils der Naturgeschichte (in German). Leipzig: Carl Friedrich Enoch Richter. p. 216.
  3. ^ Dickinson, E.C.; Christidis, L., eds. (2014). The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: Passerines (4th ed.). Eastbourne, UK: Aves Press. p. 608. ISBN 978-0-9568611-2-2.
  4. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b del Hoyo, J; et al., eds. (2005). Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 10. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 786. ISBN 84-87334-72-5.
  6. ^ Sangster, G.; Alström, P.; Forsmark, E.; Olsson, U. (2010). "Multi-locus phylogenetic analysis of Old World chats and flycatchers reveals extensive paraphyly at family, subfamily and genus level (Aves: Muscicapidae)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 57 (1): 380–392. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.07.008. PMID 20656044.
  7. ^ Urquhart, E., & Bowley, A. (2002). Stonechats. A Guide to the Genus Saxicola. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6024-4.
  8. ^ a b Wink, M.; Sauer-Gürth, H.; Gwinner, E. (2002). "Evolutionary relationships of stonechats and related species inferred from mitochondrial-DNA sequences and genomic fingerprinting" (PDF). British Birds. 95: 349–355. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2022-06-11. Retrieved 2018-05-10.
  9. ^ Woog, F.; Wink, M.; Rastegar-Pouyani, E.; Gonzalez, J.; Helm, B. (2008). "Distinct taxonomic position of the Madagascar stonechat (Saxicola torquatus sibilla) revealed by nucleotide sequences of mitochondrial DNA". Journal of Ornithology. 149 (3): 423–430. doi:10.1007/s10336-008-0290-1.
  10. ^ Zink, R.M.; Pavlova, A.; Drovetski, S. V.; Wink, M.; Rohwer, S. (2009). "Taxonomic status and evolutionary history of the Saxicola torquata complex". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 52 (3): 769–773. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.05.016. PMID 19464380.
  11. ^ David, N.; Gosselin, M. (2002). "The grammatical gender of avian genera". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 122: 257–282.
  12. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Chats, Old World flycatchers". World Bird List Version 6.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Malurus splendens (Splendid Fairywren) - Avibase". Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  14. ^ a b c d Kessler, E. (2013). "Neogene songbirds (Aves, Passeriformes) from Hungary". Hantkeniana. 8: 37–149.

External links[edit]