Phoenicurus phoenicurus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Passeriformes > Muscicapidae
A bird of deciduous woodland, the Redstart gets its name from the colour of its tail, 'start' being an old colloquial name for tail.
The Redstart is a summer visitor to Britain & Ireland, arriving in April and departing through September and October for its wintering location in trans-Saharan Africa. The male is a striking bird, pinky-red below with a black face, silvery-white forehead, grey back and striking red tail, whilst the female has pale orangey-red underparts, pale brownish upperparts and slightly duller tail.
Redstarts can be found breeding across the UK, although their strongholds are in the west. However, this species is only a rare breeder in Ireland. UK numbers declined in the late-1960s due to drought in this species' Sahelian wintering grounds. Numbers subsequently recovered, and now fluctuate.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Redstart
Redstart identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Redstart.
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 Redstart, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses
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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.
A sharp decline in the late 1960s and early 1970s was thought to be due to severe drought conditions in the Sahel wintering area in Africa (Marchant et al. 1990). There was a 20% loss of occupied 10-km squares in Britain between 1968-72 and 1988-91 (Gibbons et al. 1993). A recovery in population size began in the mid 1970s and appears to have been sustained subsequently, although with some setbacks. Range, meanwhile, has contracted further, especially in the lowlands (Balmer et al. 2013). The European trend is described as being a 'moderate increase', although the change since 1980 is shown as only +8%, with the trend graph suggesting declines in the early 1980s have since been reversed (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>).
|UK breeding population
|No population change in UK (1967–2020)
The Redstart is a rare and perhaps overlooked annual breeder in Ireland. Breeding Redstarts are absent from the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Northern Isles and most Hebridean Islands, from which suitable wooded habitat is lacking. Otherwise, they have a wide and patchy distribution in western and northern Britain, with highest densities in the wooded uplands of Wales, northern England and, to lesser extent, southern Scotland. Small pockets of distribution remain in southern England, mostly associated with heathland.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season
|% occupied in breeding season
|No. occupied in winter
|% occupied in winter
European Distribution Map
Relative frequency by habitat
The Redstart's British breeding range has contracted by 31% since the 1968–72 Breeding Atlas. Losses are most apparent in the English lowlands and in Scotland, through the Central Belt and on the northern and western fringes of the range. In the 1988–91 Breeding Atlas, it was noted that Redstarts were increasing in core areas and decreasing in the range margins; these trends have continued.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)
Redstart is a summer visitor, arriving through April. Birds gradually depart in early autumn when we also receive passage migrants from the continent.
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.
Lifecycle and body size information about 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
|Maximum Age from Ringing
|8 years 0 months 8 days (set in 2007)
|2 years with breeding typically at 1 year
|77.8±2.7 | Range 74–82mm, N=890
|79.3±2.3 | Range 76-83mm, N=1481
|78.9±2.5 | Range 75–83mm, N=480
|76.4±2.2 | Range 73–80mm, N=405
|14.2±1.29 | Range 12.2–16.2g, N=797
|14.3±1.47 | Range 12.2–16.9g, N=1327
|14.3±1.26 | Range 12.4–16.2g, N=441
|14.0±1.32 | Range 12.1–16.2g, N=352
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
|2-letter: RT | 5-letter code: REDST | Euring: 11220
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Interpretation and scientific publications about Redstart from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The sharp decline in the late 1960s and early 1970s was thought to be due to severe drought conditions in the Sahel wintering area in Africa (Marchant et al. 1990). A recovery in population size began in the mid 1970s. This increase has been associated with steeply improving numbers of fledglings per breeding attempt and progressively earlier laying dates. The trend towards earlier laying can be partly explained by recent climate change (Crick & Sparks 1999), and is in line with an advance of 12 days in the arrival dates of Redstart in the UK, between the 1960s and 2000s ( Newson et al. 2016). Mallord et al. (2016) found no evidence that changes in woodland structure affected populations in six study areas in the west of the UK.
Further information on causes of change
No further information is available.
Information about conservation actions
The Redstart has been increasing since the 1970s and hence is not currently a cause of conservation concern, although there has been a decrease over the last five years. The driver of change may be improved productivity although this is uncertain.
A central European study and experiment found that areas of habitat with sparse (short) vegetation and bare ground were important within Redstart territories, by making prey more easily accessible (Martinez et al. 2010), hence providing more open habitat and providing areas of short vegetation (e.g. through mowing) may benefit this species. However, it should be noted that Mallord et al. (2016) found no evidence that changes to woodland structure had affected populations in the west of the UK. Note also that providing more open habitat for Redstart could potentially also negatively affect several other woodland specialists whose declines may be at least partly related to the loss of woodland understorey (e.g. Woodcock, Nightingale, Wood Warbler, Willow Tit, Marsh Tit).
Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com
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