The Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the Thrush family (Turdidae), but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae).
Distribution / Range
It is a widespread breeder in south and central Europe, but very localised in Great Britain. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, but northern birds winter in southern Europe or north Africa. It nests in crevices or holes in buildings.
It is more common in Britain as a bird of passage and winter visitor. On passage it is fairly common on the east and south coasts.
Reports of early Common Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) may sometimes refer to this species.
Migrant Black Redstarts arrive in Britain in October or November and pass on or remain to winter, returning eastward in March or April.
They typically frequent cliffs and stony ground, but in Britain often breed and winter in industrial complexes that have the bare areas and cliff-like buildings it favors.
The “fire” of the tail labels the bird as a Redstart, but it may be distinguished from the Common Redstart, which is the same size, at 14 cm length, by its sootier appearance, even when the distinctive white wing patch is not apparent, as in immature males.
The Black Redstart is 13-14.5cm in length.
The male has no chestnut on the flanks nor white on the forehead.
The female is greyer than the Common Redstart, and at any age the grey axillaries (feathers under the wing – the “armpit” or “wingpit” of a bird) and under wing-coverts are distinctive.
In the Common Redstart these are buff or chestnut.
Its quick ducks of head and body are robin-like, and its tail is often flicked.
Diet / Feeding
It will catch passing insects in flight, and migrants may or hunt in the tide-wrack for flies or tiny crustaceans.
Call / Vocalization
The male has a rattling song and a tick call.