Black Redstart

Phoenicurus ochruros (SG Gmelin, 1774) BX BLARE 11210
Family: Passeriformes > Muscicapidae

Black Redstart, Liz Cutting

Black Redstart is a scarce breeding bird in Britain, with a population thought to have peaked at 120 pairs and largely associated with industrial sites and city centres.

The species is regularly recorded at coastal sites in small numbers, and some individuals may overwinter. Black and Common Redstarts may occasionally hybridise.


Black Redstart identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Black Redstart.

related video

Identifying Redstarts

In late summer and autumn Redstarts and Black Redstarts can turn up anywhere; The males are easy to identify but how do you separate females and young birds? This video will help you to spot the subtle differences that will allow you confidently identify a bird that is not sporting the males stunning summer colours.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Black Redstart, provided by xeno-canto contributors.



Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The Black Redstart is unusual amongst rare British breeding birds in that it is often found breeding in urban areas. The first breeding records occurred in the 1920s and, whilst it remained scarce, the number of records increased during the Second World War (Witherby & Fitter 1947; Fitter 1948), in particular in London which still remains one of its strongholds. A national survey in 1977 found a total of 104 territorial males, consistent with numbers obtained from local bird reports in the years immediately preceding and following the survey (Morgan & Glue 1981). The species remains scarce and is assessed by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel. The data suggest breeding numbers may have decreased since the late 1970s although numbers have remained stable in the 25 years to 2019 and there was a mean of 65 breeding pairs reported to the RBBP over the period 2015–2019 (including possible breeding records such as singing males) (Eaton et al. 2021). However, it is unclear whether a genuine decline has occurred given the difficulty in recording breeding evidence in urban areas. The number of 10-km squares with breeding evidence doubled between the 1968–72 and the 2008–11 Atlases with some gains occurring outside the core areas in south-east England (Balmer et al. 2013).


Black Redstarts are localised breeders with most records concentrated around London, coastal Kent, East Anglia and northwest England. During 2008–11 there were no confirmed breeding records in Ireland and the only one in Scotland, on Lewis, involved the sighting of a single recently fledged juvenile, with the exact breeding site not determined. They are scarce in winter, with most records coming from along the south coasts of Ireland, Wales and England.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Although the core breeding range has changed relatively little, the number of occupied squares with breeding evidence has doubled since 1968–72 and many of the gains were outside southeast England, suggesting a slow range expansion.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Black Redstart can be recorded throughout the year; it is scarcest in the summer when a rare breeder. Most records are during autumn passage in late autumn and some birds winter, especially in the south.

Weekly occurence of Black Redstart from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Black Redstart ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Black Redstart, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Earr-deargan-dubh
Welsh: Tingoch Du
Catalan: cotxa fumada
Czech: rehek domácí
Danish: Husrødstjert
Dutch: Zwarte Roodstaart
Estonian: must-lepalind
Finnish: mustaleppälintu
French: Rougequeue noir
German: Hausrotschwanz
Hungarian: házi rozsdafarkú
Icelandic: Húsaskotta
Irish: Earrdheargán Dubh
Italian: Codirosso spazzacamino
Latvian: melnais erickinš
Lithuanian: dumine raudonuodege
Norwegian: Svartrødstjert
Polish: kopciuszek (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: rabirruivo
Slovak: žltochvost domový
Slovenian: šmarnica
Spanish: Colirrojo tizón
Swedish: svart rödstjärt


Interpretation and scientific publications about Black Redstart from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The causes of changes in Black Redstart numbers are unclear and speculative but the colonisation of England followed an expansion of the European breeding range from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Climate change has been suggested as a possible driver of this range expansion, and the colonisation of England has been attributed to the creation of suitable nest sites due to bombing, particularly in London, and the microclimate of the city (Morgan & Glue 1981). Recent apparent decreases have in turn been speculatively attributed to a reduction in the number of available nest sites following development, with the creation of 'green roofs' designed for Black Redstarts being proposed as a potential solution (Grant, date unknown).

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