Monday, 22 August 2011

White-throated bushchat

Saxicola insignis

Photo by Nikhil Devasar (Oriental Bird Images)

Common name:
white-throated bushchat (en); cartaxo-de-Hodgson (pt); tarier de Hodgson (fr); tarabilla de Hodgson (es); mattenschmätzer (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Muscicapidae

This Asian species breeds very locally in the mountains of Mongolia, Kazakhstan and adjacent parts of Russia. They winter in southern China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and northern India.

This large chat is 17 cm long and weighs 17-22 g.

The white-throated bushchat breeds in alpine or subalpine meadows with scattered scrub. It generally favours areas of rocky outcrops and boulders, where there are small streams with many shallow ravines, gullies or gorges. During winter they are found in wet or dry grasslands, open short-grass plains and in reeds along riverbeds.

It feeds primarily on insects, with its diet comprising mostly beetles and beetle larvae. They typically search for prey by perching on top of bushes or grasses and scanning for insects on the ground, but are also known to follow herds of swamp deer Cervus duvauceli and other moving animals, including humans, which disturb and flush out insects.

The white-throated bushchat breeds in May-July. They builds a bulky nest made of dry grass and lined with wool, feathers and dry moss, placed in rock clefts, crevices or holes, or in the walls of river banks, ravines and gullies. There the female lays 4-5 eggs, which she incubates alone for 14-16 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge about 14 days after hatching.

IUCN status - VU (Vulnerable)
The white-throated bushchat has a relatively restricted breeding range and a global population estimated at 2.500-10.000 individuals. The population is suspected to be undergoing a moderate decline as a result of habitat loss and degradation in the wintering grounds, although up-to-date information on population trend is lacking. The major threat appears to be rapid and extensive loss and modification of grasslands in the wintering grounds, as a result of drainage, conversion to agriculture, overgrazing, grass harvesting and inappropriate grassland management within protected areas. Recent flooding has destroyed further suitable habitat.

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