The Whinchat is similar in size to its relative the European Robin, at 12-14 cm long and 13-26 g in weight. Both sexes have brownish upperparts mottled darker, a buff throat and breast, a pale buff to whitish belly, and a blackish tail with white bases to the outer tail feathers. Breeding males have a blackish face mask encircled by a white supercilium and malar stripe, a bright orange-buff throat and breast, and small white wing patches. The female is duller overall, having a browner face mask, pale buffy-brown breast, and a buff supercilium and malar stripe, and smaller white wing patches. Males in immature and winter plumage are similar to females, except that adult males retain the white wing patches all year.
Habitat and Distribution
The Whinchat is a migratory, breeding in Europe and western Asia from Ireland and northern Portugal east to the Ob River basin near Novosibirsk, and from northern Norway south to central Spain, central Italy, northern Greece, and the Caucasus Mountains. They winter in tropical sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to Kenya and south to Zambia. The bird favours rough low vegetation habitats such as cultivated grassland with scattered small shrubs, and also clear-felled conifer plantations.
They feed largely on insects, but also a wide range of other invertebrates such as spiders, small snails and worms. During autumn they feed on blackberries The birds like to perch on elevated spots from where they make sallies to catch insects.
The Whinchat nests in dense low vegetation, laying from four to seven eggs, which hatch after 11-14 days. The young leave the nest on foot 10-14 days after hatching, while still too young to fly; they then fledge at 17-19 days.
Calls and Songs
Its main call is a hue-tac-tac, the 'tac'. It is used both for contact between birds and predator alarms. The male has a whistling, crackly but soft song used during the breeding season.