Common redstart

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Common redstart
Redstart, male

Redstart, male

Order : Passerines (Passeriformes)
Subordination : Songbirds (passeri)
Family : Flycatcher (Muscicapidae)
Subfamily : Schmätzer (Saxicolinae)
Genre : Redstart ( Phoenicurus )
Type : Common redstart
Scientific name
Phoenicurus phoenicurus
( Linnaeus , 1758)

The Gartenrotschwanz ( Phoenicurus phoenicurus ) is a bird art of the genus redstarts ( Phoenicurus ) from the family Fliegenschnäpper (Muscicapidae), formerly the species with other species schmätzerähnlichen was to the chokes (Turdidae) counted. It populates Eurasia eastwards to Lake Baikal and parts of North Africa and the Middle East . As a cave and half-cave breeder, it predominantly inhabits light deciduous forests, parks and gardens with old trees. He is a trans-Saharan migrant who makes his way to winter quarters in late summer. Since the beginning of the 1980s, populations of the species have declined sharply, but seem to have stabilized at a low level in recent years. The entire redstart population is not considered endangered. For 2011 he was voted bird of the year in Germany and Austria. In Switzerland he was bird of the year in 2009 .



Female (left) and male (right) redstart
Redstart in youth dress

The common redstart is like the black redstart around 13 to 14.5 centimeters long. The weight is between 12 and 20 grams.

The male has a strikingly contrasting color: the field of vision and throat, as well as the area directly above the beak, are black, while the forehead and an over- eye stripe that extends to the ear covers are pure white. The top of the head, neck and back are gray. The chest area is brightly colored rust-red, towards the whitish lower abdomen it runs out through widening light-colored feather hems. Flanks and under tail-coverts are much paler rust-orange. The wings are usually brownish, the covers of the underside of the wings rust-red. The buttocks , rump and upper tail-coverts are - as an eponymous feature - also strong rust-red, the tail central feathers earthy to dark brown. After the moult, the black and white face mask is covered by brownish feather hems and only comes to light in spring as a "splendid dress" due to plumage wear.

The female is more inconspicuously colored. The upper side is brownish and changes into the rust-red color of the upper tail-coverts on the lower back, the tail is rust-red as in the male. The underside is lighter beige with a - sometimes intense - orange-tinged chest, which clearly stands out from the gray to dark gray chin and the sides of the neck. The underside, which stands out more clearly from the upper side and is orange, is the main distinguishing feature from the black redstart female, which is much more monochrome. Similar to the male, the wings are brown in color, the undersides beige with an orange tinge. With increasing age, females can approach the males in color and then become more contrasting. A light to white forehead can then develop, the otherwise grayer areas become darker, the orange-tinged areas more intense.


Redstart song, recorded in England

The singing consists of quite catchy stanzas, which vary greatly in length and which can be divided into three, sometimes recurring parts. The introduction is not very variable, fluting, melodious and somewhat raised, sometimes tied with two syllables, such as hüit or tü-li . This is followed by a part of short syllables that are repeated about two to four times. These are more voiceless and scratchy than the introduction and very different from each other. The last syllable can be different from the previous ones. The final, third part is usually very variable in length and shape and longer than the first two. It consists of trilling, fluting, but also scratching or rippling sounds. Often imitations of other species are included, which are often particularly stereotypical song patterns such as the song of the blackcap or rattle warbler .

A singing example could - the three parts separated by dashes - thus read something like : tüli - tri-tri-ti - tri-lui-dididi-tridi . After a pause, the next stanza, which is immediately introduced, follows. The pauses are usually about twice as long during night singing. Sometimes short vocal motifs can also be heard from the female.

The call is similar to that of the black redstart, but is more flute and thus similar to that of the leaf warbler . Sometimes a voiceless tek is also appended. As with the black redstart, this element can also initiate the snappy warning call, for example hüit-tick-tick or füid-tek-tek .


The redstart usually sits on lower raised hide, branches or smaller bushes and trembles noticeably with its tail. It flies briefly on the ground to search for food or catches insects in the air during a short flight.


Brood distribution (orange) and wintering areas (blue) of the common redstart, full tone: Ph. Ph. phoenicurus , striped: Ph. ph. samamisicus

The distribution of this western and central Palearctic species extends over the temperate zone and extends into the boreal , Mediterranean and steppe zones . In the southern parts of the area, the occurrences are limited to mountains.

On the Iberian Peninsula , the redstart is relatively common in the north, but only scattered in the south and west. There are fragmented occurrences in northern Africa. In the British Isles, it occurs in Ireland only in the far east and is largely absent on the Scottish Isles. Eastward, the closed distribution extends to Siberia and there to Lake Baikal . Some smaller deposits can also be found east of it. In the north, the distribution area is limited by the 10 ° C July isotherm , in Scandinavia it extends to around 71 ° N, includes the Kola peninsula and then extends eastward to the Yenisei around 66 ° N. In the south it extends in Italy to Sicily , but the species is absent in Sardinia and Corsica. On the Balkan Peninsula , the occurrences are sometimes quite scattered and extend into northern Greece. There and in Anatolia mixed populations of the nominate form with the southeastern subspecies samamisicus are formed . The distribution of the nominate form continues in the south to the northern edge of the Black Sea and into the southwestern Caucasus and along from about 50 ° N through Kazakhstan, there to the Saur Mountains and further east to the Mongolian Altai, in the Gobi- Altai and the Chentii Mountains . The distribution of samamiricus extends from the Crimea and the east of Turkey to the Caucasus and the Kopet-Dag as well as in the northeast of Iran to the Pamir , in the south to the Zāgros Mountains . A small deposit is in Syria .


The common redstart is a long-distance migrant . The birds of the nominate form are trans-Saharan migrants that overwinter in an area that almost exactly coincides with the savannas of the Sudan zone . There are also rare winter records in the Sahara or from Western Europe. The southeastern subspecies samamiricus overwinters south of the breeding area mainly in the south of the Arabian Peninsula and in Africa in Ethiopia and in Sudan east of the Nile . In Eritrea , birds of both subspecies appear to be scattered side by side.

The redstart moves to winter quarters very early. The migration takes place from mid-July with the migration of the young birds and is usually completed at the end of September. The main migration period is in the second half of August. Latecomers are found until October, and very rarely in November. Most birds migrate to the southwest, for example southern Swedish birds migrate over southwest France, Andalusia and Morocco. The return home usually takes place on more easterly routes, in the example above via Algeria and Switzerland. The withdrawal begins around the beginning of March. The earliest migrants arrive in the breeding areas at the end of March; the main arrival time is between mid-April and early May.

Geographical variation and hybrids

Two subspecies are described, from which samamisicus differs by a pronounced white wing surface (at most only hinted at in phoenicurus ) and a more dull colored upper side of the females. The nominate form phoenicurus varies clinically in size from very small specimens in the British Isles to the largest in Siberia.

  • P. p. phoenicurus ( L. 1758) - Northwest Africa and Western Europe to Siberia and northern Mongolia
  • P. p. samamisicus ( Hablizl 1783) - southern Balkans, Greece, Crimea and eastwards to Turkmenistan, southern Uzbekistan and Iran

Hybrids with the black redstart have been found several times . In 2013 a peculiar bird was caught in Norway which, after genetic testing, turned out to be a hybrid between a male redstart and a female whinchat . It was the first finding of a hybrid between two genera from the flycatcher family (Muscicapidae).

Inventory development

The redstart population has been declining significantly since the beginning of the 1980s at the latest, despite isolated regional recoveries. In addition to habitat destruction in the breeding areas, the main reasons for this are assumed to be profound changes in the African wintering areas, such as increased use of pesticides and insecticides or the serious expansion of the Sahel zone .

The redstart is on the early warning list of endangered breeding birds in Germany. In the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Austria it appears on the red lists. Due to the endangerment, the Swiss Bird Protection Agency named the redstart bird of the year 2009. In addition, the German Nature Conservation Union and the State Association for Bird Protection in Bavaria have voted him Bird of the Year 2011. It was also voted Bird of the Year in Austria . It is estimated that there are around 6,000–12,000 breeding pairs.


As a cave and half-cave breeder, the redstart is strongly tied to old trees and primarily colonizes light and dry deciduous forests, clearings or forest edges. Here he mainly inhabits habitats that have a loosened layer of bushes and herbs, in which he mainly finds his food. Its habitat often coincides with that of the pied flycatcher , which, however, uses the higher tree layer as a food niche.

The common redstart can also be found in the vicinity of settlements, for example in parks with a loose tree population, heavily green villa districts or garden cities, outskirts of villages and orchards, sometimes also in industrial plants with lots of green. In years with high population numbers, mixed and coniferous forests are also populated.

In Scandinavia it is a typical breeding bird in dry, light and old pine forests, but it also inhabits light birch forests or wooded fields in moorland.

At higher altitudes it mostly occurs near settlements with old trees, but it also inhabits near-natural, open mountain forests below the tree line - for example the Swiss stone pine-larch forest . In Scandinavia it occurs at altitudes of up to 700 meters, in the Sudetes up to 1300 and in the Alps up to 2000 meters.

Settlement density

The space requirement for the breeding season is about one hectare for this species . In favorable habitats this value is also undercut. It is noticeable, however, that measures such as hanging nest boxes can hardly increase the settlement density.

Seen over a large area, the highest settlement densities are achieved in small-scale garden cities, heavily greened residential areas and varied parks. Up to 25 breeding pairs per square kilometer (BP / km²) were found here. There were also high settlement densities in low forest near bog (10–17 BP / km²) and in park-like dune landscapes in the Netherlands (5.3–6.52 BP / km²). In the Central European cultural landscape, densities of up to 2 BP / km² are normal, in larger areas covered by near-natural forests, such as birch forests in southern Lapland, higher densities of 5 to 11 BP / km² can also be typical.


Feeding male at the nest hole

The food is mainly sought on the ground, in the lower layer of bushes and herbs. If there is an abundant supply (e.g. swarming insects) in the upper layer of bushes or trees, this is definitely used.

It consists mainly of insects , spiders and harvestmen , a large proportion of which make up skin and two-winged birds and beetles . Ants , parasitic wasps and sawfly dominate the hymenoptera . Defensive insects such as bees and wasps are largely avoided. Most of the beetles prey on adults and larvae that live in the ground . Butterflies play a role primarily as nestling food, either in gradations or - specifically sought after and especially in the first half of the breeding season - as larvae. Other groups of insects, but also millipedes , worms , woodlice and snails are used primarily as food supplements. Berries and other fruits are occasionally both fed to nestlings and - especially after the breeding season - eaten by adults .


Clutch of the common redstart
Museum Wiesbaden collection
5 day old fledglings

The common redstart usually builds its nest in caves or niches, and seldom breeds freely. He mostly uses natural tree hollows, knotholes or woodpecker holes. The interior must not be completely in the dark, but should be illuminated by weak light, for example through a wide entrance or a second opening. It is not uncommon for the species to breed in half-caves such as crevices, hollow fence posts or piles of brushwood. Structures on buildings such as board cladding, piles of wood or holes in the wall are often used. Usually the nest is at a height of one to five meters. If it is placed on the ground, it is usually in or on protective structures such as roots, holes in the ground or piles of stones. Free-standing nests are usually found in the branches. In the dry pine forests of Finland, the redstart often breeds on the ground.

Redstart usually marry in a monogamous season, but cases of bigyny have also been found. Courtship and pairing take place at the hatchery. The male, arriving a little earlier, founds a territory and looks for suitable nesting holes. These are inspected by the female who makes the final decision.

The nest is built almost exclusively by the female, which takes 1.5 to 8 days. The size is often determined by the volume of the nest cavity. It consists of a loose substructure made of dry plant material such as straw, grass, moss, leaves or pine needles. Often there are small admixtures of other, coarser materials such as bark, small twigs, lichen or pussy willow. The actual nesting trough, which is 60 to 65 millimeters wide and 25 to 48 millimeters deep, is often made of the same material as the substructure, but it is finer and more carefully built. It is often lined with feathers, moss, animal hair or the like.

The clutch consists of 3 to 9, usually 6 or 7 eggs. If there are more eggs in the nest, it is probably the clutch of two females. The eggs are oval, show a deep greenish-blue color and are matt to slightly shiny. Very rarely there is a weak reddish-brown spot on the blunt pole. The incubation lasts 12 to 14 days and begins shortly after the last egg is deposited. The hatching of the young birds, from the first to the last, can take more than a day. The young fly out after an average of 14 days.

In Central Europe there is usually an annual brood. If the brood is lost, replacement broods can also come quite late. The earliest beginning of laying is at the end of April / beginning of May, the latest egg laying was observed in the first half of July. The latest egress dates were recorded in August.

Relocations are often only forced, and new territories are often relocated a short distance away. Second or replacement broods usually take place in the same area, sometimes even at the same nest location.

Young birds quickly migrate to their winter quarters after brief dispersions. They are likely to become sexually mature towards the end of their first year of life. Birds of the previous year often settle near the breeding site, but sometimes also at a greater distance.


Web links

Commons : Phoenicurus phoenicurus  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Data sheet BirdLife international (PDF, English).
  2. Bird of the Year (Germany): 2011
  3. Bird of the Year (Switzerland): 2009
  4. ↑ Singing example (MP3; 425 kB)
  5. Call example (MP3; 247 kB)
  6. Nigel Collar , David A. Christie (2013): Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) in: J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, AD Christie, E. de Juana (eds.): Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive , Lynx Edicions, Barcelona 2014
  7. Eduardo de Juana: Intergeneric hybridization between two European chats , HBW Alive, July 10, 2015
  8. Christoph Grüneberg, Hans-Günther Bauer, Heiko Haupt, Ommo Hüppop, Torsten Ryslavy, Peter Südbeck: Red List of Germany's Breeding Birds , 5 version . In: German Council for Bird Protection (Hrsg.): Reports on bird protection . tape 52 , November 30, 2015.
  9. Little bird with great demands. In: October 8, 2010.
  10. 2011: Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus). ( Memento of the original from June 18, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Retrieved November 5, 2011. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. Järvinen and Glutz v. Blotzheim (p. 385f) s. literature
  12. Järvinen, s. literature
  13. Glutz v. Blotzheim, p. 364, s. literature