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).
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).
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).
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