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File:Saxicola rubicola-Portugal -male-8.png
Male European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Inopinaves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Superfamily: Muscicapoidea
Family: Muscicapidae
Subfamily: Saxicolinae
Genus: Saxicola
Bechstein, 1802
  • Saxicola jerdoni
  • Saxicola ferreus
  • Saxicola gutturalis
  • Saxicola rubetra
  • Saxicola macrorhynchus
  • Saxicola insignis
  • Saxicola caprata
  • Saxicola leucurus
  • Saxicola stejnegeri
  • Saxicola maurus
  • Saxicola dacotiae
  • Saxicola rubicola
  • Saxicola torquatus
  • Saxicola sibilla
  • Saxicola tectes

The genus Saxicola (Etymology: "rock-dweller", from Latin saxum, a rock + incola, dwelling in), 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 following species are currently accepted in Saxicola:[1]

Species status possible,[2] but not yet verified:

  • Ethiopian Stonechat Saxicola (torquatus) albofasciatus

Formerly included in Saxicola, but now treated in a separate genus:[1][3]

  • Buff-streaked Chat Campicoloides bifasciatus (syn. Oenanthe bifasciata, Saxicola bifasciatus)


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.[3][4]

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 Stejneger's Stonechats are also all separate species.[2][5][6][7] 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.[5]

Owing to misunderstandings of Latin grammar, several species have in the past been widely but incorrectly cited with feminine name endings ("S. torquata, S. maura, S. leucura, S. ferrea", etc.).[8]


  1. ^ a b IOC World Bird List Family Muscicapidae
  2. ^ a b Urquhart, E., & Bowley, A. (2002). Stonechats. A Guide to the Genus Saxicola. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6024-4.
  3. ^ a b Hoyo, J. del, et al., eds. (2005). Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 10. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. p. 786. ISBN 84-87334-72-5. 
  4. ^ 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). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57: 380–392 Full text
  5. ^ 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. British Birds 95: 349-355. PDF fulltext
  6. ^ 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. J. Ornithol. 149: 423–430. Full text
  7. ^ Zink, R.M., Pavlova, A., Drovetski, S. V., Wink, M., & Rohwer, S. (2009). Taxonomic status and evolutionary history of the Saxicola torquata complex. Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution 52: 769-773. Abstract.
  8. ^ David, N. & Gosselin, M. (2002). The grammatical gender of avian genera. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 122: 257-282.


Eurasian Spoonbill This article is part of Project Bird Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.

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