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BirdsSpecies Animal

Saxicola torquatus

Saxicola torquatus

The African stonechat or common stonechat (Saxicola torquatus Linnaeus, 1766) is a bird belonging to the Muscicapidae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Animalia,
Subkingdom Eumetazoa,
Superphylum Deuterostomia,
Phylum Chordata,
Subphylum Vertebrata,
Infraphylum Gnathostomata,
Superclass Tetrapoda,
Aves class,
Subclass Neornithes,
Superorder Neognathae,
Order Passeriformes,
Suborder Oscines,
Passerida infraorder,
Superfamily Muscicapoidea,
Muscicapidae family,
Subfamily Saxicolinae,
Genus Saxicola,
Species S. torquatus.
The term is basic:
– Motacilla torquata (Linnaeus, 1766).
The terms are synonymous:
– Muscicapa torquata Linnaeus, 1766;
– Pratincola pallidigula Reichenow, 1892;
– Saxicola axillaris (Shelley, 1884);
– Saxicola torquata (lapsus).
Within this species the following subspecies are recognised, with their relative distribution areas:
– Saxicola torquatus Felix Bates, 1936 – southwestern Saudi Arabia and western Yemen;
– Saxicola torquatus albofasciatus Rüppell, 1840 – from south-eastern Sudan and north-eastern Uganda to central Ethiopia;
– Saxicola torquatus Jebelmarrae Lynes, 1920 – eastern Chad and western Sudan;
– Saxicola torquatus moptanus Bates, 1932 – Senegal and southern Mali;
– Saxicola torquatus nebularum Bates, 1930 – Tropical West Africa from Sierra Leone to western Ivory Coast;
– Saxicola torquatus axillaris (Shelley, 1885) – eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, northern and western Tanzania;
– Saxicola torquatus promiscuus Hartert, 1922 – from southern Tanzania to eastern Zimbabwe and western Mozambique;
– Saxicola torquatus salax (Verreaux, J & Verreaux, E, 1851) – from eastern Nigeria to northwestern Angola, to Bioko Island;
– Saxicola torquatus stonei Bowen, 1931 – from the east and south of Angola to the south-west of Tanzania, from the south to the north of South Africa and Botswana;
– Saxicola torquatus clanceyi Courtenay-Latimer, 1961 – west coast of South Africa;
– Saxicola torquatus torquatus (Linnaeus, 1766) – Central South Africa;
– Saxicola torquatus oreobates Clancey, 1956 – Lesotho;
– Saxicola torquatus voeltzkowi Grote, 1926 – Grande Comore.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Saxicola torquatus is a species that has a wide palearctic-paleotropical range, which includes Europe, Africa and Asia, found locally up to Senegal and Ethiopia. Outlying populations are found in the mountains of southwestern Arabia, Madagascar and Grande Comore.
Its winter residence is Southern and Western Europe. In central and eastern Europe this bird is present from March to November.
It is not migratory and moves only locally, if at all. As a result, it has developed many regional variations, being divided into 13 subspecies.
Its habitat is that of open surfaces with shrubby vegetation, for example in moors, high, uncultivated prairies, meadows, cultivated fields.

Description –
Saxicola torquatus is a small bird about 12 cm long and weighing up to thirteen grams.
Males have a black head, white half-collar, black back, white rump and black tail; the wings are black with a large white spot on the upper side of the inner wing. The upper breast is usually dark orange-red, with a sharp or gradual transition to white or light orange on the lower breast and belly depending on the subspecies. In some, black replaces the orange chest feathers partially or completely.
Females are brown rather than black above and on the head with a lighter, more indistinct brow line, brown rather than orange below and less white on the wings. The plumage of both sexes is somewhat duller and streaked outside the breeding season.

Biology –
Saxicola torquatus reproduces in the period from March to August when two broods are laid. The nest is built on the ground with grass, straw, lichens and roots; usually hidden well at the base of a bush. Females lay five to six eggs.

Ecological Role –
Saxicola torquatus is a bird that inhabits sub-Saharan Africa and adjacent regions. Its scientific name refers to its appearance and habitat and means “collared rock inhabitant”: Saxicola from Latin saxum (“rock”) + incola (“he who dwells in a place”), torquatus, Latin for ” collar”.
From a systematic point of view, some reviews have definitively assigned it as a separate species from others.
In 1760, the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the African stonechat in his Ornithologie based on a specimen collected at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. He used the French name Le gobe-mouche à collier du Cap de Bonne Espérance and the Latin name Muscicapa Torquata Capitis Bonae Spei. Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognized by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. When Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition in 1766, he added 240 species that had previously been described by Brisson. One of these was the African stonechat. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the binomial Muscicapa torquata and cited Brisson’s work. This species is now included in the genus Saxicola introduced by the German naturalist Johann Matthäus Bechstein in 1802.
The closest relatives of this species are apparently not the Eurasian populations but the Réunion stonechat (S. tectes), but the “white-collared” Saxicola nevertheless constitute a distinct group in the genus. S. torquatus and S. tectes form a sub-Saharan African lineage that diverged from the Eurasian one in the late Pliocene, about 2.5 million years ago. Réunion was colonized shortly thereafter, indicating rapid expansion along the African coast of the Indian Ocean. As the Sahara dried up during the subsequent Quaternary glaciation, African and Eurasian populations remained isolated forever.
The recent separation as a species was proposed after analysis of the cytochrome b mtDNA sequence and nDNA microsatellite fingerprinting of samples of the subspecies Saxicola torquatus axillaris but not of S. t. torquatus, and thus this species was briefly known as S. axillaris.
The 13 described subspecies differ slightly in size, and most in the extent of orange-red on the upper breast of males, and whether the lower breast is white with a distinct border from the upper breast, or light orange with a border indistinct from the breast darker. upper part of the breast. The extent of the orange-red color also varies with the time of year, often extending to the belly outside of the breeding season.
The stonechat feeds on insects, spiders and worms which it mainly catches from the ground. Hunting from ambush: it takes flight from its perch and goes to capture its prey. It requires the presence of bushes, shrubs, thick grass, stakes, all ambush points for hunting. From these positions the male can sing to signal his territory.

Guido Bissanti

– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– C.Battisti, D. Taffon, F. Giucca, 2008. Atlas of nesting birds, Gangemi Editore, Rome.
– L. Svensson, K.Mullarney, D. Zetterstrom, 1999. Guide to the Birds of Europe, North Africa and the Near East, Harper Collins Publisher, United Kingdom.

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