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Black Redstart

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

What do black redstarts look like?

Adult male black redstarts have slate-grey upperparts, with darker markings on the wings. The flight feathers are dark grey with white edges that 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.

On the underparts, the belly and flanks are slate-grey, the lower belly and undertail feathers are rust, and the breast and throat are black.

The crown and nape are grey, while the face is black, with rictal bristles that surround the bill. The eyes and bill are black, as are the legs and feet.

Female black redstarts are a duller brown-grey colour, with dark brown wings. The underparts are light grey, and the rump, vent, and undertail are rust but paler than the male’s. On the head, the cheeks and ear coverts are brown.

Juvenile black redstarts are similar to females, but are slightly darker overall and they have scaling on the throat and breast.

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How do black redstarts breed?

Black redstarts nest in holes and cavities in rocks and walls or sometimes in piles of stones on the ground. The female constructs 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.

What do black redstarts eat?

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 can I see black redstarts?

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.

What do black redstarts sound like?

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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27 Responses

  1. There’s been a male coming to the sunflower feeder in my garden for the last week or two – I’m in Exmouth, by the sea, in Devon. The sparrows aren’t welcoming it though and gang up to chase it off.

  2. Spotted a black redstart in my garden yesterday he’s still about and doesn’t seem too bothered by me. We live by the coast in Clevedon North Somerset

  3. Saw a male on Monday outside our flat, kept flying past us then flew through our flats open garage. Then got out our car this evening and heard the them 2 females this time flying in and out the garage with food. I’m sure the nest is in the garage will check tomorrow. Eastbourne Sovereign Harbour

  4. Spotted one early evening in a car park by Preston Park in Brighton. Have never seen one before, a real treat!

    1. I live in the south of France and have five chicks in a nest opposite my kitchen window 3 m away! The redstart took residence in the 4 year old swallows nest and when the swallows returned they were not pleased! After a morning of trying to intimidate the black red start who was sitting on her eggs, they gave up and They have now started building another nest further along the rafter.I’m interested to see how the checks will cope as I understand they leave the nest before they can fly. Obviously I’m worried about predators. They will be on my Veranda!

  5. Never seen one until today, one male, one female in my garden in South East Cornwall. Found this page while trying to identify them.

  6. I believe I have just seen one of these birds on our bird feeder by the house in Kirkby Stephen eating seeds, it seems a bit unusual in Cumbrian woodland in January.

  7. We have seen this bird in the centre of Leamington Spa visiting three adjoining small walled gardens. It has a distinctive tail flicking when perched

  8. I’ve just seen a male in my back garden in Cowes, Isle of Wight. I’ve never seen one before and had to look it up as it’s not often I see a bird I don’t recognise in my neck of the woods.
    Delightful bird, full of energy. Oh it’s back again!

  9. We have had a female in our back garden this afternoon in south Leicestershire eating the berries on our dogwood. Took us a while to id as we aren’t in an area they are seen in generally

  10. one spotted in my garden yesterday , I live in Basildon Essex , took a while to identify until I found this website.

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