Common Redstart

The Common Redstart or Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), is a summer visitor in Europe. Its winter quarters are in north Africa. The Redstart is common in Great Britain but in Ireland it is very local. It is a bird of the woodlands and open park land. The subspecies P. p. samamisicus is found from the Crimean Peninsula through Turkey, the Middle East, and into Central Asia.

In many of its habits and actions the Redstart shows an affinity to the European Robin. It has the same general carriage, and chat-like behavior, and is the same size at 5.4 inches in length. The rich chestnut tail, from which it and other redstarts gets their names (start is an old word for tail), is always in motion. Among European birds, only the Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochrurus) has a similar tail.

The male in summer has a slate-gray head and upperparts, except the rump and tail, which, like the flanks, underwing coverts and axillaries are orange-chestnut. The forehead and eye-stripe are white. The sides of the face and throat are black. The wings and the two central tail feathers are brown. The orange on the flanks shades to almost white on the belly. The bill and legs are black. In autumn, broad margins obscure the colors of the male, giving a washed-out appearance. The female is browner, with paler underparts. She lacks the black and slate, and her throat is whitish.

The male’s song is similar to that of the Robin, but never more than a prelude, since it has an unfinished, feeble ending. The Redstart feeds like a flycatcher, making aerial sallies after passing insects, and most of its food consists of winged insects. The call is chat-like and the alarm a plaintive single note, wheet, like that of the Winter Wren. Five or six light blue eggs are laid during May, and a second brood is rare.

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