Redstart

Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Last updated: October 6, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© iStock.com/Selim Kaya

They build their nests off the ground in tree holes, cavities, stone walls, and roofs

Redstart Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Passeriformes
Family
Muscicapidae
Genus
Phoenicurus
Scientific Name
Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Redstart Conservation Status

Redstart Locations

Redstart Locations

Redstart Facts

Prey
Larval beetles, Flies, Ants, Bees, Wasps, Damselflies, Spiders, Molluscs, Earthworms
Name Of Young
Chicks
Group Behavior
  • Flocks
Fun Fact
They build their nests off the ground in tree holes, cavities, stone walls, and roofs
Estimated Population Size
50 million individuals
Biggest Threat
Deforestation
Most Distinctive Feature
Reddish-orange plumage
Wingspan
8.6 inches
Age Of Independence
30 days
Age Of Fledgling
15 to 18 days
Habitat
Mature oak, birch woodland, high visibility, and minimal shrub and understory
Predators
Snakes, Domestic cats, Blue Jays, Owls, Common Grackles, Hawks
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Common Name
Redstart
Number Of Species
14
Location
Europe, West Africa
Nesting Location
In various cavities or holes in mature trees, stone walls, or roofs
Migratory
1

Redstart Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
  • Orange
Skin Type
Feathers
Lifespan
2-5 years
Weight
0.35 to 0.8 ounces
Length
5.5inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
1 year
Aggression
Low

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The redstart is a perching bird formerly thought to be part of the thrush family. However, now they are known to be a member of the Old  World flycatcher family.

They are versatile birds and live in various habitats throughout Europe and West Africa, ranging from parks, broadleaf woodlands, gardens, farmlands, heathlands, and hedgerows. As long as the area has open country with minimal shrubbery, they will thrive.

Redstarts arrive in the UK during the summer from West Africa to breed between April and September.

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Three Incredible Redstart Facts!

  • Redstarts are really small, only measuring 5.5 inches
  • They build their nests off the ground in tree holes, cavities, stone walls, and roofs
  • Female redstarts lay between 5 to eggs. She incubates them for about 12 to 14 days, and chicks are born with dark gray down on their heads and backs.

Where to Find the Redstart

Redstarts primarily inhabit various European habitats but migrate to West Africa during winter. While they are common in Britain, there are more in Ireland.

They occur in the following countries:

Common redstarts prefer open habitats with plenty of mature oak, birch woodland, high visibility, and minimal shrub and understory, even better if the trees are old enough to have holes for their nests.



They are often seen on the edge of woodland clearings, and in England, they are primarily found in upland areas because they are less affected by agricultural intensification. In addition, they occupy the lowlands of eastern Europe, including old gardens and parks in urban areas.

Unlike many other bird species, the redstart benefits from dead trees or dead limbs because of their natural holes, which are perfect for building nests. In addition, they prefer a high cover of moss and lichen. In addition, they thrive in mature and open conifer woodland. While their population numbers are high in Ireland, breeding pairs are very scarce, with only around 1 to 5 breeding pairs, most of which are found in County Wicklow.

Nests

Common redstarts build their nests in the shape of a cup in various cavities or holes in mature trees, stone walls, or roofs, generally between 3.2 to 20 feet above the ground. Their nests are made from moss, roots, and grass, and they line the insides with feathers and fur. Female redstarts are responsible for building the nest while the males stand guard and sing loudly.

Nesting Facts

Clutch size5-6 eggs
Incubation period12-14 days
Nestling period15-18  days
Egg descriptionPale blue
Condition when hatchingHelpless, blind, and bare except for downy tufts of feathers on the head, neck, and back

Redstart Scientific Name

The common redstarts scientific name is Phoenicurus phoenicurus, and they belong to the order Passeriformes, the largest order of birds. This order consists of over half of the bird species in the world. They also go by the name perching birds.

Their most distinctive feature is their three toes, two facing forward and one robust and flexible toe facing backward, called hallux, that aids them in perching on branches.

Generally, most perching birds have 12 tail feathers. They are very diverse and found in most parts of the world. Common redstarts come in various patterns, colors, shapes, and sizes. When passeriform chicks hatch, they are naked and blind, so their parents cater to their every need.

Redstarts belong to the family Muscicapidae, which consists of about 286 bird species, mostly confined to the Old Word ( Europe, Asia, and Africa). These birds generally measure between 3 to 9 inches long and have flat, broad bills, short legs, tails, and short, rounded wings. Their colors vary from Gray, black, blue, brown, and red.

Muscicapidae eats insects and inhabits many areas, including scrublands, forests, and agricultural regions.

Subspecies

There are only two subspecies of restarts, which are:

  • The common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
  • The Southeastern Common Redstart (Phoenicurus samamisicus)

Redstart Size and Appearance

Common redstarts are similar in size to a Robin with two exceptions; redstarts are slimmer with longer tails. They measure 5.5inches long and weigh 0.35 to 0.8 ounces, with a wingspan of 8.6 inches. In addition, males and females differ in appearance.

Males

Male redstarts have rich orange-red rump and tails, with a dark central panel. Their upper parts are slate gray, which continues onto the crown. They have jet-black faces and a white stripe running down their foreheads. In addition, the male’s underparts are a vibrant orange-red with white undertail.

Common redstart males are petite, only measuring 5.5 inches in length. However, they are often identified by their long legs and habit of shivering their tales.

Females

Female redstarts are much paler than males and have orange-red tails and underparts. Their throats are fair, and they have light buff-brown upper parts.

Juveniles

Juveniles are similar to adults, with some exclusions. They lack the gray plumage of the males and present a mix of the two genders.

Their faces are dark with a white stripe running down their foreheads, and their underparts are buff-orange, with a brownish-gray back. Juveniles have orange-red rumps with a dark center. In addition, they have white bellies and undertails and black bills, eyes, and legs.

Redstart Migration Pattern and Timing

Redstarts migrate to central Africa in the winter and return to the UK during summer to breed between April and September.

Redstart Behavior

These tiny birds like to feed on invertebrates and berries. They forage on lower branches in trees and in bushes. Redstarts fly from their perches to catch prey on the ground and return to the perch to enjoy their meal. While hunting insects, they often perfume short sallies during flight.

In addition, they flutter in front of trunks, vegetation, and branches, which helps them catch their prey. Males are generally distinguished by their plumage, but one can also identify them through their actions of shivering their tails.

The breeding season sees males singing more often than usual and many short flights. Males are responsible for choosing the nest site before attracting a female. In addition, male redstarts perform zigzag flights among the trees, where copulation often occurs. This behavior generally lasts until incubation begins.

Redstarts are migratory, leaving their breeding grounds in autumn from mid-August to November and migrating back between February and April.

Redstart Diet

Common redstarts are omnivores and eat invertebrates, including:

In addition, redstarts like to feed on various fruits and berries.

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The breeding season occurs in spring; however, it can vary depending on the range. Female redstarts build nests in cavities or holes in trees, roofs, and stone walls, generally 3.2 to 20 feet off the ground.

The nests are cup-shaped and constructed from roots, grass, and moss. They line their nests with fur and feathers for extra warmth.

Female redstarts lay between 5 to 7 pale blue eggs, which sometimes have dark red speckles. Their incubation period lasts for around 12 to 14 days. Chicks are born with dark gray down on their heads and backs, and both parents feed them.

Hatchlings start to fledge at around 15 to 18 days, and their parents will continue to feed them for 3 additional weeks. They are proactive birds because the females may start a second brood while the male takes care of the first. Fledglings become independent at 30 days old. However, they remain in small groups, consisting of 2 to 3 birds, and eventually disperse in gardens.

Lifespan

Redstarts do not have a long lifespan and only live for 2 years on average. However, there are records of some individuals living up to five in the wild.

Predators, Threats, and Conservation Status

Redstarts fall prey to:

Their biggest threat is deforestation. However, redstarts are highly adaptable and can build nests in stone walls, buildings, and nest boxes.

Luckily, the European population is stable, but unfortunately, populations in Spain and other parts of Europe are declining. However, redstarts are listed as Least Concern on IUCN’s Redlist.

Redstart Population

There are an estimated 15 million breeding pairs in Europe, and their global population size is estimated at around 50 million individuals. However, further information is needed for a more accurate number.

Four Species Similar to Redstarts

There are four species of birds that are very similar to redstarts, either by size, appearance, or behavior; they include:

Ovenbird

Ovenbirds are beautiful songbirds that are members of the New World Warbler family. They have three subspecies scattered over the Americas and occasionally in Europe.

These birds prefer habitats with mixed and coniferous forests or areas surrounding streams. Ovenbirds spend a lot of their time foraging on the forest floor. Their biggest threats are brood parasitism and habitat loss; while migrating, they often collide with tall towers.

However, their numbers are still substantial, and their population size is not in danger yet. Breeding occurs in late March and early May. Female ovenbirds are in charge of building the nest, which they do on the floor of deciduous woods or above ground in shrubs or low plants. Nests look like Dutch ovens and have a side entrance.

Female ovenbirds will incubate their eggs for 11 to 14 days and stay on the ground with their hatchlings until they are independent. Eggs measure 0.78 inches in length and are brown with gray markings.

Worm-Eating Warbler

Worm-eating warblers are medium-sized birds that nest on the ground and have olive-gray upper parts, and their underparts are a pale yellow. In addition, their heads are yellow with a black stripey crown.

Their name is derived from their steady diet of moths, caterpillars, and worms. They forage for their prey amongst dead leaves and understory vegetation.

Worm-eating warblers can be found in the Ohio Valley, southeastern Iowa, southern New England, and Mid-Atlantic, and southern states. In addition, they occur in:

  • Mexico
  • Yucatan Peninsula
  • West Indies

These birds prefer to live on dry wood hillsides, where females will construct their nests on the ground against saplings or deciduous shrubs. The females are clever little birds and disguise their nests under dead leaves. Nests consist of dead leaf skeletons lined with fur, moss, maple seed stems, and fungus filaments.

Female worm-eating warblers lay between 4 to 5 eggs that are white in color with brown spots or blotches. She will incubate her eggs by herself for 13 days. Both males and females feed the hatchlings, and they leave the nest at just 10 days old. Females usually brood once per year.

Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana waterthrushes are stunning songbirds who use their magnificent vocalizations to communicate. Although they are very similar to the northern waterthrush and yellow-throated warbler, their songs are entirely different.

They prefer habitats near streams and other moving water bodies, which enables them to catch their food from the water. Louisiana waterthrushes feed on:

However, fish is their primary food source, which is why they live and build their nests around rivers, streams, and brooks.

Northern Waterthrush

Northern waterthrushes inhabit regions of North America and migrate to South America as far as eastern Colombia and northern Ecuador during winter.

They prefer to breed in habitats with bogs and wooded swamps, and after migrating south for the winter, they are often found in mangroves.

Northern waterthrushes are mainly solitary but hold territories in areas of migration where they will use loud chink calls to let others know they are there.

They like to forage on the ground by the water’s edge, feeding off insects, crustaceans, and fish that inhabit the shallow waters.

Northern waterthrush populations are increasing and are listed as Least Concern on IUCN’s Redlist. However, the destruction of mangroves and other wetlands could be the cause of population declines in the future.

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About the Author

I am a 33-year-old creative and professional writer from South Africa. Wildlife is one of my greatest passions and led me to become the writer I am today. I was very blessed to work with an abundance of wildlife (mainly big cats) and captured my unique experiences in writing. But I wanted to take it further, and I ventured into the freelancing world. Now, I get to spend my days writing about animals; what could be better?

Redstart FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What size is a redstart?

They measure 5.5inches long and weigh 0.35 to 0.8 ounces, with a wingspan of 8.6 inches

Why is it called a redstart?

The red in redstart is for their vibrant reddish-orange coloring, and start is derived from an old English word ‘steort’ which means tail.

How rare is a black redstart?

There are an estimated 15 million breeding pairs in Europe, and their global population size is estimated at around 50 million individuals. However, further information is needed for an more accurate number.

Do Redstarts hover?

Yes, redstarts do sometimes hover when flying.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. IUCN Redlist, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22710055/155611852#
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_redstart
  3. Twootz, Available here: https://twootz.com/bird/Redstart
  4. Oiseaux Birds, Available here: https://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-common-redtsart.html
  5. Animalia, Available here: https://animalia.bio/common-redstart
  6. All About Birds, Available here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Redstart/overview
  7. Woodland Trust, Available here: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/redstart/

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