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Black Redstart - BirdForum Opus

(Redirected from Phoenicurus ochruros)
Adult male P. o. gibraltariensis
Photo © by rayh
East Yorkshire, October 2005
Phoenicurus ochruros


14–15 cm (5½-6 in)
Male grey-black upperparts, sooty black breast and face, white fringes to secondaries making a whitish wing patch, rusty-red rump and tail; slightly duller in winter but still distinct from females.
Female duller, brown-grey with rust-red rump and tail.
Immature males mostly look like the female, but a small percentage (around 10%; termed "paradoxus" birds) develop plumage like adult winter males in their first winter.

Female or first-year male
Photo © by mike nesbitt
North Wales, April 2009


See Taxonomy1

Similar Species

Common Redstart:


Breeds in Iberia and France east to the Baltic States, Belarus and Ukraine, Balkans and Greece, much of Turkey and the Caucasus. Also breeds in scattered outposts around edges of main range in south-east England (more rarely in central and northern England), Denmark and southern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, in northwest Africa and in scattered parts of the Middle East. In the Mediterranean breeds on Sicily and small numbers have bred on Corsica since the 1980s.

Resident in the south and some birds resident in Britain and Central Europe, but further north and east migratory, wintering chiefly around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, but also small numbers northwest to Ireland.

Vagrants recorded north to Iceland and the Faroes and also on Madeira and the Azores.


Adult male P. o. phoenicuroides
Photo © by ariban
Jawaharnagar, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; 26 September 2014


Several separable subspecies occur, differing mainly in extent of black/grey in plumage of the adult males. They fall into two main groups, the grey-bellied western races with orange-red restricted to the tail and vent, and the red-bellied birds from the east with extensive strong orange-red up to a sharp demarcation at the lower breast. The red-bellied subspecies also have less white fringing on the secondaries.

Females, and immature males except for "paradoxus" individuals, are not currently known to be distinguishable to subspecies[1][2][3].

Research is continuing as to whether the two groups may represent separate species, with conflicting results to date.

  • Grey-bellied
  • P. o. aterrimus: in Iberia and Morocco, blacker above and below with more contrasting grey crown; not considered distinct from P. o. gibraltariensis by some authorities.
  • P. o. gibraltariensis: the race found breeding over most of Europe, including southern Britain, except for Iberia (where it does also occur in winter, including at its type location of Gibraltar).
  • P. o. ochruros, the nominate race from eastern Turkey and the Caucasus is intermediate between the two groups though closer to P. o. gibraltariensis, with some limited diffuse orange-red forward to the lower belly.
Photo © by julienl
Brittany, France
  • Red-bellied
  • P. o. semirufus from the Middle East has little or no white wing patch and rust-red lower breast and belly.
  • P. o. phoenicuroides from Central Asia, wintering in the Middle East to India is similar but paler above and often with white forehead.
  • P. o. rufiventris breeding from Turkmenistan to China resembles other eastern races but is larger and blacker above.
  • P. o. xerophilus from western China (Astin Tagh Mountains to western Gansu and Qinghai)

P. o. semirufus has occurred as a vagrant west to France and P. o. phoenicuroides has been recorded in Sweden, Britain, the Netherlands and Guernsey. Caution needs to be exercised with identification of extralimital red-bellied birds, as occasional western grey bellied birds can show some diffuse (though not well-marked) red on the belly; also, the occasional rare hybrids between western Black and Common Redstarts can be strikingly similar to red-bellied Black Redstarts[3][4].


Found on cliffs, rocky slopes, screes and boulder-strewn areas from sea-level up to the snowline. Formerly confined to rocky areas on coasts and in mountains but has adapted to living alongside man and has spread into many lowland areas. Now breeds widely in villages and towns and on patches of waste-ground, railway yards and similar areas in many large cities.



The diet consists of invertebrates and insects such as spiders, worms, grasshoppers, earwigs, bugs, cockroaches, supplemented with berries and seeds.


They nest in crevices or holes in buildings.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and D Christie, eds. 2005. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334726
  3. Birding Frontiers: Red-bellied Black Redstarts
  4. Birding Frontiers: Eastern Black Redstart

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