British Garden Birds Site Map Album Info Quiz Shop Links About Visit us on facebook Visit us on twitter

Black Redstart

Male Black Redstart
Male: Mostly grey-black with white patch on wings and orange-red rump and tail.
Female Black Redstart
Female: Like the male but brown-grey instead of black, no white wing patch, and duller.

Black Redstarts can be found all year round; some are summer visitors, like Redstarts, some are passage migrants in the spring and autumn, and others are resident. Most Black Redstarts are in the southern half of England, preferring "rocky" habitats offered in towns, docklands and industrial areas.

The Black Redstart is a slim, upright bird, but also quite shy.

In the summer, the male bird's plumage is quite striking: grey-black upperparts, sooty black breast and face, a bold white wing patch, and a rusty-red rump and tail. The female is duller, brown-grey with rust-red rump and tail. In the winter the male looks like the female.

Juveniles are similar to the female.

Scientific Name Phoenicurus ochruros
Length 14.5 cm  (5¾")
Wing Span 23-26 cm  (9-10")
Weight 14-20 g  (½-¾ oz)
Breeding Pairs 100
Present All Year
Status Amber

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The song is a hurried warble, followed by a scrunching sound like a bag of marbles, and finishing with a burst of ringing notes.


© Jean Roché,
Alarm Call

© Jean Roché,


Black Redstarts feed mainly on insects and their larvae, but also earthworms, and small molluscs. They will also feed on fruit and berries, particularly in the autumn.


Very few breed in Britain, mainly in south-east England, East Anglia and the West Midlands.

The nest is a cup of grass and moss, lined with wool, feathers, and hair, and usually on a building's ledge or a hole in a wall. The female builds the nest.

The female alone incubates the eggs, which are white, smooth and glossy, and about 19 mm by 14 mm. The newly-hatched young are fed by both adults.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April 2 4-6 13-17 12-19


Some of our breeding birds are resident, but many migrate to the Mediterranean for the winter. Many of the birds seen around our coast in the winter are immigrants from northern Europe.


The Black Redstart is a Schedule 1 species, which means that it has special protection at all times.