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From Opus

Tichodroma muraria
Photo © by Leo Tucker Embalsa de Lanuza, Spain, November, 2018
Photo © by Leo Tucker
Embalsa de Lanuza, Spain, November, 2018


[edit] Identification

16·5–17 cm (6½-6¾ in) Unmistakable. The only small bird in Europe to show a combination of grey, black, red and white plumage, a long thin beak, and a habit for crawling over rock faces. Only males in summer plumage show the black throat, being greyish white in other plumages.

In flight, powers forward with deep irregular wingbeats and can appear much larger than it actually is. The shape of the wings and the wing colours makes a comparison of the flying bird to a butterfly obvious.

T. m. muraria, winter plumagePhoto © by scottishdudeNorthern Spain, January, 2010
T. m. muraria, winter plumage
Photo © by scottishdude
Northern Spain, January, 2010

[edit] Distribution

From Europe to China, mostly at high altitudes; breeds at up to 5100 m altitude in the Himalaya. Resident or a short-distance altitudinal migrant. A very rare vagrant to Britain.

[edit] Taxonomy

Placed in its own family with no very close relatives; genetic analysis shows it linked to nuthatches (Sittidae).

[edit] Subspecies

T. m. nepalensisPhoto © by Marc GuytRamnagar, India, February 2005
T. m. nepalensis
Photo © by Marc Guyt
Ramnagar, India, February 2005

There are two subspecies[1]:

  • T. m. muraria:
  • Europe (Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathians and Balkan mountains; also Corsica) and south-western Asia to northern and western Iran
  • T. m. nepalensis:

[edit] Habitat

Nests at high altitudes on cliffs and rockfaces in Eurasian mountain ranges. In winter, many birds are forced by harsh conditions descend to a lower altitude when they can sometimes be encountered in upland villages and towns, using larger buildings (castles, cathedrals, and similar) or quarries as a substitute for natural cliffs.
Generally, breeding habitat will include a variety of exposures and terrain - overhangs, crevices and caves to facilitate bad weather feeding.

[edit] Behaviour

Shuffles over bare rock, regularly flicking out its wings, showing the crimson wings with their white spots. Likes ledges, overhangs, nooks and crannies - rarely bare rock; often close to waterfalls or wet rock. Seen regularly 'bouldering' along stream edges.

Not shy. Imitating the call can be productive.

[edit] Diet

Their diet consists of some larger insects, their eggs and larvae. Also spiders and other invertebrates.

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved April 2017)

[edit] External Links


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