pixabay Lizenz Wolfgang_Vogt (https://pixabay.com/de/photos/hausrotschwanz-phoenicurus-ochruros-2164740/)

Black redstart


With a body length of 14 to 15 cm, the black redstart is slightly smaller and, above all, slimmer than the house sparrow. The eponymous characteristic of the genus is the rust-orange coloured uppertail coverts and tail feathers, whereby in the black redstart the middle pair of tail feathers is dark brown. This feature is present in all dresses in both male and female. The brown-black beak is relatively long, broad at the base and ringed by rather long beak bristles. The black, slender legs are strikingly long, the perching posture is upright. The weight is between 14 and 20 grams, on average 16.2 grams. The wings are relatively long, the wing length of Central European representatives of the species ranges from 85 to 91 mm, the wingspan is about 26 cm.

The upperparts of adult males are dark slate grey during the breeding season. The forehead is black, sometimes with a white forehead patch. The reins, cheeks and the underpart from the chin to the belly are black, the underparts are lighter and greyer. The dark brown-grey primaries and secondaries have a white fringe, which is particularly evident on the middle secondaries, forming a white wing patch. This is only visible on a sitting bird and may be barely visible in summer. In autumn and winter, males appear slightly lighter overall due to grey feather fringes.
Females are much more inconspicuous than males. The rump and uppertail coverts appear less bright than the male and more reddish brown than rusty orange. On top, females are uniformly grey-brown in colour, only the middle and underbelly are blurred grey-white and thus lighter.

distinction between black redstart and common redstart

In Europe, the closely related commonn redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) breeds alongside the redstart. Adult males of the common redstart can be easily distinguished during the breeding season by their white forehead, black facial mask and rust-orange rather than brown-grey underparts. It is more difficult to distinguish females; those of the common redstarts differ from female black redstarts by their pale, usually whitish-isable throat and much lighter rusty-orange to isabel-brown underparts.


As the only bird species of the Western Palearctic, the black redstart inhabits all altitudinal zones from sea level to the alpine, sporadically even to the lower nival altitudinal zone. The species' primary habitats already cover a wide range of dry to moist mountain and rocky regions; in addition, the black redstart now colonises a large number of man-made habitats.

Common to all primary habitats is the open, largely clear character and the absence of higher, dense vegetation. These habitats have at least individual rocks or boulders that are important as breeding sites or waiting areas. 

The range of secondary habitats colonised by the black redstart is extraordinarily broad, and the connection to the primary habitats, although not obvious in all cases, is recognisable on closer inspection. A key factor of these habitats is the existence of at least single clear-cut, short-grassed or vegetation-poor areas, which are preferentially hunted. In its choice of nest sites, the black redstart is markedly flexible and insensitive to disturbance. There are secondary habitats inside and outside human settlements. Examples include gravel pits, quarries, vineyards interspersed with retaining walls and virtually all types of residential, commercial and industrial sites. In Europe, settlements are now thought to host 90 per cent of the total population.

Open, clear habitats are also preferred as resting places after the breeding season and during migration. Settlement birds also use surrounding cultivated land in late summer, especially fallow fields and harvested maize fields. Riverbanks are particularly popular resting places during migration, especially in bad weather. Reeds and reed beds, on the other hand, are avoided despite their abundance of food and their open to semi-open character.

The text is a translation of an excerpt from Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hausrotschwanz). On wikipedia the text is available under a „Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike“ licence. Status: 03 November 2021