Rufous-tailed rock-thrush -- 白背矶鸫 (Monticola saxatilis)

Male rufous-tailed rock-thrush in breeding colouration
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Rufous-tailed rock-thrush fact file

Rufous-tailed rock-thrush description

GenusMonticola (1)

The rufous-tailed rock-thrush (Monticola saxitilis) is most easily identified by its characteristic rusty or reddish-brown tail feathers, for which it is named. The male is unmistakeable in summer, with a striking blue-grey head, leading into dark brown wings and a white back, which contrast with a prominent orange breast. The female rufous-tailed rock-thrush is very different to the male, with a pale brown breast and underparts, a darker head, dark brown wings, and attractive reddish outer tail feathers. The juvenile has a very similar colouration to the female, but with noticeably lighter brown wings (3).

Although generally a shy and quiet species, the rufous-tailed rock-thrush may be heard making a short, squeaky whistle, but can also produce an enchanting soft and melodic song (4).

Also known as
European rock thrush, rock thrush.
Merle de roche.
Length: 17 - 20 cm (2)
Wingspan: 30 - 35 cm (2)
45 - 60 g (2)

Rufous-tailed rock-thrush biology

The rufous-tailed rock-thrush is an omnivorous bird that spends much of its time flitting over light vegetation in search of food, eventually resting on a perch from which it will hunt. Its diet consists of a wide range of insects, berries and small reptiles, the latter being a rare but nutritious meal. The rufous-tailed rock-thrush usually takes its prey from stems or leaves and then returns to its perch, where it will re-examine the area again before taking another prey item (3) (6) (7).

Small rock cavities are the favoured nesting locations for the rufous-tailed rock-thrush. Sites like these are in ample supply on the rocky mountainside, and so competition for nesting sites is low (3). The female will lay 4 to 5 eggs in a clutch, and the eggs hatch after an incubation period of 12 to 15 days. The hatchlings remain in the nest for another 15 to 18 days before fledging. The young are then dependent on the adults for another 14 days, during which time they are taught the foraging and hunting skills needed to survive (7).


Rufous-tailed rock-thrush range

The rufous-tailed rock-thrush has a vast breeding range, extending from southern Europe to central and western Asia. Most populations are migratory, spending winter in sub-Saharan Africa (5) (6).


Rufous-tailed rock-thrush habitat

Normally found breeding on steep and rocky mountain slopes or higher alpine meadows, the rufous-tailed rock-thrush prefers areas over elevations of 1,500 metres with open hills and light vegetation. However, it will occasionally breed on lower slopes, where there may be a reduced amount of foraging competition (3) (7).


Rufous-tailed rock-thrush status

The rufous-tailed rock-thrush is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Rufous-tailed rock-thrush threats

The rufous-tailed rock-thrush is not currently considered threatened (5).


Rufous-tailed rock-thrush conservation

There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the rufous-tailed rock-thrush (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

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Find out more about the rufous-tailed rock-thrush and its conservation:



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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Feeding on both plants and animals.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. (1994) The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Clement, P. and Hathaway, R. (2000) Thrushes. Helm Identification Guides, A & C Black Publishers, London.
  4. Birds In Bulgaria - Rufous-tailed rock-thrush (November, 2010)
  5. Birdlife International (July, 2011)
  6. British Trust for Ornithology - Rock thrush (November, 2010)
  7. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2006) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 11: Old World Flycatchers to Old World Warblers. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Image credit

Male rufous-tailed rock-thrush in breeding colouration  
Male rufous-tailed rock-thrush in breeding colouration

© Jordi Bas Casas /

NHPA/Photoshot Holdings Ltd
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