Blue Rock-thrush

Monticola solitarius

سمنة الصخور الزرقاء

Status: Scarce

The Blue Rock-thrush belongs to the Muscicapidae family in the Passerine order. It is 21-23 cm in size and 45-60 grams in weight. It is a medium-sized songbird, about the size of the Starling, slim-figured with long legs and an upright posture. The beak is slender and long, almost the length of the head and also the tail is long and sticking out from the tip of the wings. The males and females differ in color. While the males have blue-grayish color with black-blue wings and tail, the females are dark brown in the upperparts and decorated with crescents pattern on it's under parts. The Blue Rock-thrush is unique in its appearance but can be mistaken with other birds. For example the males can be mistaken for Starlings due to its similar structure but its lacking the spots pattern of the starling and unlike the starling that groups up in huge flocks it’s a solitary bird. The females are similar to the females of the related Common Rock-thrush but the later one has shorter beak and tail, and the crescents pattern exists also on its upperparts. The female Common Rock-thrush also has a rufous tail that Blue Rock-thrush is lacking. The males of these two species are incomparable. The diet of the Blue Rock-thrush consists mostly of large insects, spiders, snails, small reptiles and even small mice. Occasionally it also feeds on seeds and fruits. Usually it spots it's pray from a high view point on a rock but sometimes can catch insects in mid air the same way as the Flycatchers do. The meaning of its Latin name is the solitary mountain dweller (Monticola - mountain dweller and solitarius – solitary), and it portrays nicely the Blue Rock-thrush's behavior and choice of habitat. The Blue Rock-thrush lives in rocky terrains, slopes and valleys. It usually breeds in holes and cracks on the rocky walls, starting from sea level and goes higher all the way to an altitude of 4000 meters (in the Himalayas). It has 2 breeding cycles a year. The first cycle starts around March-April and the second is between May-June. Sometimes they even use the same nest in both cycles. The Blue Rock-thrush is very territorial and guards its territory also outside of the breeding season. It chases away birds that invade the territory, even birds from other species. The Blue Rock-thrush is an "old world" bird from Morocco in the west to Japan in the east. The western populations in northern Africa, southern Europe and Turkey are mainly resident. From Turkey to the Himalayas the populations are migratory and wintering from Sudan in Africa through the Arab peninsula and southern Asia to Malaysia. The eastern populations are partly resident and partly migratory while some are wintering in southern Asia. In that distribution 5 subspecies were classified of which 2 can be seen in Palestine: The resident M. s. solitarius subspecies that breeds in north-west Africa, around the Mediterranean, Turkey and the Caucasus is seen mainly in rocky areas in Mediterranean and semi desert habitats. The rare migrant M. s. longirostris (long beaked) subspecies that breeds from Turkey east to Afganistan and winters mainly in south-west Asia can be seen in the Jordan valley and the eastern slopes.

Conservation status – least concern.

Migratory behaviour: Resident breeder.

Remarks: Present in rocky habitats, common in winter

Sites: Beitillu, Umm at-Tut, Wadi Al-Quff nature reserves