15th November 2013

Wales remains one of the UK breeding strongholds for Wheatear and Whinchat, as well as for the expanding population of Stonechats. However, both Wheatear and Whinchat are declining in Wales with Whinchat being too scarce to be monitored by the BBS.

Preliminary results

See below the preliminary results from a dedicated breeding season survey of Wheatear, Stonechat and Whinchat carried out in Wales during 2012 and 2013. More detailed result to follow soon.

The survey was undertaken to improve the surveillance and monitoring of these species in the more remote landscapes and to help identify relationships with habitat that could inform land management for conservation.

  • Final coverage was just short of 300 different 1-km squares with chats recorded in 63.4% of visited squares. 
  • All species were associated with extensively managed, non-intensive, unimproved, habitats, and none with linear features such as hedges.
  • Both Stonechats and Whinchats forage from prominent features and were associated with scrub or bracken but Stonechats were also associated with coarser herbaceous cover and Whinchats with semi-natural grassland and damp areas. 
  • In many places, semi-natural grassland may only be available in areas protected from heavy grazing, such as fenced young tree plantations or boulder strewn steep slopes where rank herbaceous cover is also less likely to dominate. 
  • Due to land management and grazing, the natural grassland components of the habitat favoured by Whinchats especially will continue to become increasingly dispersed if protected only by topography (inaccessibility) or incidental exclusion (fenced plantations). 
  • Wheatear had a strong association with rocky outcrops which may emphasis a need for breeding crevices.  However, some protection of the surrounding foraging habitat from intensive grazing may be important.