Black Redstart

Phoenicurus ochruros

14.5cm

Appearance

The Black Redstart is more slender than the Robin, and it is darker than the Redstart; red is only found on the tail. The sexes differ. Males are mostly slate-grey – the face and breast are the darkest parts - and his colour darkens during spring. He has a white section on his wing, and his belly has a whitish tinge down low. He has a dark bill and legs. Females are greyish brown with a reddish tail; her wings are the darkest part of her, and her lower belly is greyish white. Her eye is dark with a pale ring around the outside. Juveniles resemble females but they have subtle flecks and bars.

Habitat

Some nest on the region's cliffs, but majority of birds use human structures such as railway stations and abandoned warehouses. During winter or when migrating, the Black Redstart may be found near the water on rocky territories.

Character

It moves its distinctive tail continuously, and spends a lot of time grounded; it runs rather than hops. Has a way of hovering before catching insects, and often begins pursuit from a perch.

Food

Diet includes midges, small flies, aphids, moths, ants, beetles, spiders, worms, berries and seeds.

Breeding

Female lays 4-6 eggs between the end of April and July, and she incubates them for 12-16 days. Both parents feed the young, which depart the nest at about 12-19 days old; young birds are tended to for approximately 11 days after they can fly. Two or three broods may be laid.

Population

Majority of the birds the region sees are passage migrants, though there is a resident population. Most birds visit between September and November, and some of these remain for winter. There is another influx in March and April. Less than 50 pairs breed in Britain, and numbers are boosted in the winter to an estimated 400 individuals.

Observation Tips

Outside of the breeding season is the best time to seek Black Redstarts, particularly around March. At this time many winter visitors will still be in the region, and a second wave of visitors will be arriving, particularly on the southern coast of England.

Voice

Has a rapid 'tuk-tuk' sound, a song that can sound quite machine-like, with crackles and whistles.
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