Stonechats have a vast, though fragmented, breeding range that includes western, southern and northeastern Europe, much of Asia south to the Himalayas, Turkey and southwestern Arabia, north and sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. Several countries within this range experienced serious declines in Stonechat numbers in the 20th century, as a result of agricultural intensification and other changes to farming practices. At the same time the range has expanded since the 1970s to several new areas including southwest Norway and Finland. Stonechats are susceptible to cold weather and suffer serious population losses during harsh winters.
    In Britain, partly as a result of this sensitivity to cold, they have tended to favour the milder western side of the country from Scotland to Cornwall though their numbers have fluctuated, falling after particularly hard winters then recovering quickly if warmer winters follow. Because of this pattern of short term fluctuation it is difficult to discern an underlying trend. The 1988-91 Breeding Atlas revealed a marked contraction in range since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas but BBS data from 1994-2000 showed a substantial overall increase. Bird Atlas 2007-11 recorded a 52% range expansion since 1968-72, mainly in Wales, northern England and central and east Scotland.
    In Wiltshire the records show the fluctuating pattern typical of the national picture, varying from "tolerably numerous" in the 1880s to "rather scarce" in the 1920s, "locally common" in the 1930s, and "absent from their old haunts" in 1951 (after a series of harsh winters in the late 1940s). There were few or no records of breeding in many of the years in the 1950s and 1960s, followed by increases in the 1970s, declines in the 1980s with only four nesting pairs reported in 1982, then up again to 223 pairs recorded in an RSPB survey of Salisbury Plain alone in 2000. Birds of Wiltshire recorded Stonechats in 107 tetrads, with breeding in 84 of them. WTA2 found them in 110 tetrads with breeding in 73.

The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
“1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
“1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
“WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.