Wales Chat Survey

Wheatear by Derek Belsey

Wheatear. Photograph by Derek Belsey.

With the survey now over nearly 300 squares were surveyed by volunters, and the results have been analysed. Chats were found on 63.4% of the surveyed squares. Preliminary results are now available.

Commonly referred to as chats, Stonechat, Whinchat and Wheatear are small, predominately ground-nesting members of the thrush family typically found in undisturbed open habitats such as uplands and heaths. Together with Scotland and northern England, Wales is a stronghold of the UK populations of Whinchat and Wheatear, and also holds a significant proportion of our Stonechats. Populations of all three species have shown marked changes over the last century, largely caused by changes in land use in the uplands, increased agricultural intensification and climate change. In Wales, birdwatchers have noticed that the Whinchat has disappeared from much of its traditional range, and that Wheatears are no longer a common breeding bird.

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey has revealed marked declines in numbers of Wheatear and Whinchat and preliminary results from the Bird Atlas 2007-11 show further contractions in their range. Both species are candidates for future upgrading to Red List and Principal Biodiversity Species status in Wales, and inclusion in national and local Biodiversity Action Plans. Previously increasing, Stonechat numbers have fallen sharply after several cold winters.

The primary method for monitoring terrestrial birds in the UK is the Breeding Bird Survey, which includes nearly 250 random squares surveyed annually in Wales by dedicated BTO volunteers.

However, a special targeted survey was needed to obtain more detailed information on scarcer species such as the chats and to identify the habitat features most important to them.

The 'Wales Chat Survey’ was launched in the spring of 2012.

Brush up on identifying Chats.