Length: 14 cm
Wingspan: 20 – 24 cm
Weight: 11 – 20 g
Adult male redstarts have a dark slate-grey back and wings. The rump and outer rectrices are rufous and the central rectrices are black. On the underparts breast and flanks are orange-rufous and the belly and undertail coverts are pale buff.
One the head the face, chin, and throat are black while the nape is dark slate grey. The front of the crown is white which extends above the eyes and fades into the nape. Redstarts have a black bill, dark brown eyes, and black legs and feet.
Female redstarts are duller with brown upperparts with an orange-rufous rump. The underparts are dull orange tinged with cream. The head is brown and does not have the white patch on the crown.
Juveniles are brown with pale buff spots. The tail is similar to the adult and the flight feathers are dark brown with lighter edges.
Redstarts start breeding in May. They build their nests in cavities such as a hole in a tree, or in stone walls or roofs. The female builds the cup-shaped nest which is made from grass, roots, and moss, lined with hair and feathers. The male stays nearby singing.
Redstarts lay 5-7 pale blue eggs with dark reddish speckles which are incubated by the female alone for 12-14 days. Chicks are covered with dark grey down and are fed by both the male and female. They fledge at 15-18 days after hatching but are cared for by their parents for another 3 weeks.
The female may start a second brood while the male continues to tend to the first brood.
Redstarts feed on invertebrates including beetles, flies, ants, wasps, bees, spiders, molluscs, and worms. They will also supplement their diet with seeds, berries, and fruit.
Where to see them
Redstarts arrive in the UK in April and leave again in October. They are mainly found in the north and west with a large concentration in Wales. Look out for them in oak woodlands, hedgerows, besides streams, and in parklands. During passage they can be seen in coastal scrubs, thickets, and woodland.
Ding Li Yong/xeno-canto
Did you know?
Redstarts are named for their tails. Start is derived from the Old English word steort, which means the tail or rump of an animal.