Rufous-backed Redstart

The Rufous-backed Redstart (Phoenicurus erythronotus), also known as Eversmann’s Redstart, is a passerine bird belonging to the genus Phoenicurus. It breeds in the mountains of Central Asia and southern Siberia from the Tien Shan range to the Tarbagatay and Altay Mountains and near Lake Baikal. Some birds move downhill for the winter while others, especially in the north-east of the range, migrate longer distances. The wintering range extends from southern Iraq through Iran and Pakistan to the western Himalayas. A few birds reach eastern Arabia. It has occurred as a vagrant in Israel and Turkey.

It is one of the larger Redstarts, averaging 6 inches long with a wingspan of 10.25 inches. The bill and legs are black. The male in breeding plumage has a black mask and gray crown and nape. The back and rump are rufous and the tail is also rufous apart from the darker central feathers. The wings are dark with white patches on the scapulars and primary-coverts. The underparts are mainly rufous with white on the belly and undertail-coverts.

Non-breeding and first-winter males are similar but much duller and browner. Females are mostly gray-brown. They have a rufous tail with a dark center, a pale eye-ring, two buff wing bars and buff edges to the flight feather edges. The tail is often flicked up and down. The song is loud and lively. The birds also have a soft, croaking call and a whistling call.

It was formerly classified in the thrush family Turdidae but is now placed in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae. It was described by the German biologist Eduard Friedrich Eversmann who is commemorated in the alternative English name for the bird.

It inhabits forest and woodland during the breeding season, reaching 17,500 feet above sea-level. In winter it is seen in more open and arid habitats. Insects form the bulk of its diet during the breeding season but fruit and seeds are important in winter.

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