Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)

Rock Thrush

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Muscicapidae | [latin] Monticola saxatilis | [UK] Rock Thrush | [FR] Merlede roche | [DE] Steinrotel | [ES] Roquero rojo | [NL] Rode Rotslijster


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

The male Rock Thrush is striking and unmistakable, with a grey-blue head, rich orange underparts, a red tail and a prominent white patch on its back. The female and immature birds are plainer brown but with dense crescent-shaped marks making the bird look barred or scalloped above and below. The only other birds with similar markings are female or immature Blue Rock Thrushes but these are much darker, slimmer, longer-headed and longer-tailed and they never have the red tail of a Rock Thrush. This red tail eliminates all other small birds except Redstarts which are smaller, slimmer and never look heavily barred.

Listen to the sound of Rock Thrush

[audio: Thrush.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 33 cm wingspan max.: 37 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 20 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 0  
      eggs max.: 0  


Eurasia : South Europe to Southcentral China, also Northwest Africa


Breeds in open, rocky habitats, usually in mountainous areas


Earliest eggs late April, main season May-June, apparently throughout range. Nest site is a horizontal crevice in rock-face, wall, ruin, or crag, under boulder on steeply sloping ground, or occasionally in tree-hole. Nest is a neat cup of grass, rootlets, and moss, lined with finer rootlets and moss. 4-5 eggs are laid, incubation 14-15 days by female only.

Feeding habits

Mainly large inscts, especially beetles, Lepidoptera larvae, and Orthoptera. Feeds mainly by flying from perch on to prey on ground, may eat several items while on ground, sometimes running or hopping a few meters between each before returning to perch.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Monticola saxatilis is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to much
of southern Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range.
Its European breeding population is large (>100,000 pairs), but underwent a moderate
decline between 1970-1990. Although the species was stable or increased across much
of its European range during 1990-2000, it probably underwent a small decline overall,
and its population has clearly not yet recovered to the level that preceded its initial
decline. Consequently, it is provisionally evaluated as Depleted.
Rock Thrush status Least Concern


Migratory. Most winter in Afrotropics, birds from eastern China travelling at least 7500 km from breeding to wintering grounds. A few birds appear to winter in Africa north of Sahara and in Arabian peninsula. Nocturnal migrant, usually travelling singly or in loose aggregations, often with Blue Rock Thrush. Main wintering area lies north and east of central African rain forests: from northern Nigeria and Cameroon (south to c. 8 degrees 30’N) east to Eritrea and from there south to at least 9 degrees S in Tanzania.
Mediterranean populations of southern Europe and north-west Africa begin to disperse from breeding sites in August, most having left by late September. Appears to cross Sahara on broad front from Morocco to Sinai, but especially common in central section. Reaches Chad mid-October, Nigeria late November. Occasional November-January records in Morocco, Ahaggar massif, Libya, and Egypt may indicate wintering north of Sahel zone by very small number. Most sites south of Sahara vacated by mid-March with stragglers remaining until at least mid-April. Passage noted in Sahara and on North African coast March-May with peak in late March and early April. However, first arrivals at southern breeding sites are usually in February, demonstrating that early passage in Africa overlooked. Northernmost European breeding sites usually reached April.

Distribution map

Rock Thrush distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *