Quick facts

Common name: redstart

Scientific name: Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Family: Muscicapidae (flycatchers and chats)

Habitat: Atlantic rainforest, particularly oak woodland

Diet: insects, spiders and other invertebrates

Predators: birds of prey

Origin: native

What do redstarts look like?

Males: Male redstarts have rich red breast and tail feathers and a slate-grey back. Their black faces and throats are contrasted by a silvery-white forehead. 

Females: Although much duller overall than the males, female restarts share the distinctive red tail feathers that give the species their name. Both are robin-like in behaviour and size.

Not to be confused with: the much rarer black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) which prefers coastal and urban habitats.

What do redstarts eat?

Redstarts feed on mainly insect prey such as caterpillars and other larvae, but will also take spiders, worms and sometimes berries.

Credit: Hermann Brehm / naturepl.com

How do restarts breed?

Redstarts are summer migrants, arriving from central Africa to breed in the UK between April and September.

Nests are built in tree cavities and sometimes also nest boxes where the female lays six or seven light blue eggs. Chicks hatch after two weeks of incubation and spend another 16-17 days in the nest before fledging.  

Did you know?

There are thought to be around 100,000 breeding pairs of redstarts in the UK each summer.

Where do redstarts live?

Redstarts are real tree-dwellers, nesting and feeding in mature oak woodlands and sometimes hedgerows in western parts of the UK. They are temperate rainforest specialists, thriving in the wet, mild conditions of the coastal woodlands of Wales, Scotland and South West England.

Trees woods and wildlife

Temperate rainforest

Also known as Atlantic or Celtic rainforest, this special habitat is incredibly rare. Its lush conditions are perfect for scarce plants, lichens and fungi, as well as a number of unusual animals.

Learn more about the UK's rainforest

Signs and spotted tips

Look for redstarts feeding among the branches of their woodland home; they rarely descend to ground level.

When perched, this bird shares the familiar upright stance, tail flicks and bobbing action of the robin.

Redstart song

Audio: Alexander Henderson / xeno-canto.org

Credit: Markus Varesvuo / naturepl.com

Threats and conservation

Redstart numbers are in decline. The species is on the Amber List due to its unfavourable conservation status.

Woodland nest box schemes, particularly in the species' stronghold in Wales, are helping conservationists monitor breeding success and population numbers. 

Did you know?

The closely related black redstart is something of a city slicker and can often be seen hunting insects among London's rooftops.

Discover more about the UK's woodland birds