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This is a fairly common species in Hampshire and the whole of the UK. In the south it is commonest on heathlands: there are more breeding in the New Forest than anywhere else in Hampshire.

Stonechats will breed in any open rough country with scattered bushes for nesting. As well as heathland, they breed on the chalk downs and along the coast in scrubby grassland. Maintaining a good mosaic of scrub, grassland and heathland in the New Forest is important for the stonechat.

The stonechat has a characteristic call like two stones being knocked together – hence the name. The song is quite musical and is a short, pleasant warble.

This is one of the easiest heathland birds to see and an hour’s walk in almost any open area of the New Forest is very likely to produce a sighting. Stonechats stay in the UK all year round, but many leave the Forest in the depths of winter to feed in warmer coastal areas. Walking on the heaths in April or May will give wonderful sightings of stonechats singing.

Photo credit: Anthony Thorpe

ID Tip


Stonechats are sparrow-sized birds that sit boldly upright on top of gorse bushes, fence posts and other prominent perches. The male has a bright orange breast, black head and white collar, while the female has a brown head and orange underside. The colour combination and prominent perching makes the male unmistakable.

Lead Ranger


'To help ground nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and ridden horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of July.'

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