Black Redstart


Key facts

Scientific name: Phoenicurus ochruros

Status: Scarce breeding resident, passage migrant and winter visitor

Breeding birds: 19 – 44 pairs

Wintering birds: 400

Conservation status: Red

Length: 14 – 15 cm

Wingspan: 23 – 26 cm

Weight: 14 – 20 g


Adult male black redstarts have slate-grey upperparts, with darker markings on their wings. The flight feathers form a white patch when the wings are closed. The rump and tail are rusty-orange and the upper tail feathers are black with rust edges.

Their underparts and face are black and they have rictal bristles surround their bills which are black, as are their eyes, legs and feet.

Female black redstarts are a duller brown-grey colour. Juvenile black redstarts are similar to females, with scaling on the throat and breast.


Black redstarts nest in holes and cavities in rocks and walls or sometimes in piles of stones on the ground. The females construct a cup-shaped nest from grass, moss, wool, hair and feathers.

Black redstarts lay 4-6 white eggs that are incubated for 12-13 days by the female alone. Chicks leave the nest after about 12-17 days but are unable to fly for several days and stay near the nest.


Black redstarts have a varied diet feeding mainly on invertebrates such as grasshoppers, flies, ants, beetles, spiders, insects, worms and snails. They will also eat fruit, berries and seeds.

Black Redstart

Where to see them

Black redstarts can be found during breeding season in urban areas in London, Birmingham, Sheffield Nottingham, Manchester, Ipswich, and Liverpool.

During spring  migration they can be found all over the UK but are most likely to be spotted along the coast. And on return passage in autumn they are numerous in Cornwall and on the Isles of Scilly. 


Timo Tschentscher/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Black redstarts began colonizing Britain after World War II, when heavy bombing in London and other cities gave them a plethora of potential nest sites.

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