Stonechat – Accepted

1. 20–21 Oct 1995


San Clemente I. LA



Fig. 263, ph., Sullivan & Kershner (2005), Cole et al. (2006), Sullivan & Patton (2006)








Figure 263. California’s lone record of the Stonechat—involving this bird, photographed on 20 October 1995 at San Clemente Island in Los Angeles County and recorded again on the following day—astounds not only because it represents a first for North America south of Canada, but because for nearly a decade this tiny image was thought to show a Vermilion Flycatcher! The record was finally set straight in 2005. This bird’s rich, orangish underparts, pale throat, and pale supercilium suggest that it was either S. t. maura or S. t. stejnegeri, the two subspecies most likely to reach western North America (2005-005; Robert T. Patton).







STONECHAT Saxicola torquatus (Linnaeus, 1766)

Accepted: 1 (100%)

Treated in Appendix H: no

Not accepted: 0

CBRC review: all records

Not submitted/reviewed: 0

Color image: see Figure

This small thrush occurs across most of the Old World, with eight subspecies listed by Stoddart (1992). The so-called Siberian Stonechat breeds across most of northern Eurasia—from around the Ural Mountains and Turkmenistan eastward to eastern Siberia and northern Japan—and winters mainly in northern India and Southeast Asia. The species regularly strays west as far as Great Britain in fall (primarily from the last week in September through October). The Siberian Stonechat is composed of westerly S. t. maura and easterly S. t. stejnegeri, subspecies that are distinct at their geographic extremes but that intergrade across large areas of Siberia. None of the remaining subspecies appears to be a likely candidate for vagrancy to California. This species is a casual straggler to Alaska, and to St. Lawrence Island in particular, where seven or eight spring vagrants have been recorded between 24 May and 6 June (NAB 60:420, 423). Alaska’s first two fall records are supported by specimens identified as stejnegeri: a bird that apparently died in fall 1985 was later salvaged from a Bank Swallow burrow at Galena (west-central Alaska; Osborne and Osborne 1987), and a bird was collected on Middleton Island on 28 September 1990 (Gibson and Kessel 1992). A third well-documented fall record is from Gambell on 6 September 2005 (NAB 60:122, 175). Elsewhere in the New World, a Siberian Stonechat was photographed on 1 October 1983 on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick (Wilson 1986).

A Stonechat, probably in its first fall, present 20–21 October 1995 on San Clemente Island in Los Angeles County (Figure 263) was misidentified upon its discovery, and so it remained for nearly a decade (Sullivan and Patton 2006). Fortunately, the bird was photographed, and when Brian L. Sullivan—then working on a review of the birds of San Clemente Island (Sullivan and Kershner 2005)—solicited documentation for the “Vermilion Flycatcher” record, the error was finally brought to light. Most Committee members commented that the San Clemente Island bird showed characters consistent with the “expected” Siberian Stonechat.

[EASTERN BLUEBIRD Sialia sialis (Linnaeus, 1758) – see hypothetical section]