Black Redstart

Black Redstart
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros rufiventris, Qinghai, China, elev. 3440 m (11,300 ft.), July. (Craig Brelsford)
Black Redstart
Note the white forehead of this Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros phoenicuroides. This race often shows a white forehead and can resemble a hybrid between Black Redstart and Common Redstart P. phoenicurus. I took these photos in July in the Altai Mountains, Xinjiang. (Craig Brelsford)
Black Redstart
Hengsha Island, Shanghai, April. Black Redstart is a very rare vagrant to Shanghai. (Craig Brelsford)

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros ranges Western Europe to central China, with phoenicuroides western Tibet and western Xinjiang and rufiventris southern Xinjiang and central Tibet to Shaanxi. In Kunlun Mountains of southern Xinjiang, the two races intergrade. Chinese ssp. winter mainly in India. Very rare vagrant Shanghai. HABITAT Breeding generally in open, rocky areas with few trees and sparse vegetation, often around abandoned buildings; above 3000 m (9,840 ft.). ID & COMPARISON Male rufiventris has sooty-black breast, hood, mantle, and back (with grey frosting, especially on crown, most prominent in winter), black wings with tinge of brown and no wing patch, and rufous underparts. Rump and tail also rufous, but central tail feathers black. Male phoenicuroides is paler with whitish forecrown and greyer upperparts. Female rather uniform; mid-brown above, slightly paler and warmer brown below, with rufescent wash to lower flanks and belly; tail pattern as male (but central tail feathers dark brown). Juvenile like female but has dark mottling above and below (but less so than most other redstarts) and more prominent buff wingbar on greater coverts. Daurian Redstart P. auroreus has white wing patch, female Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni has paler belly (less rufous), female Blue-fronted Redstart P. frontalis has a black-tipped tail, female Common Redstart P. phoenicurus is warmer brown above and buffier below, and female Przevalski’s Redstart P. alaschanicus, Blue-capped Redstart P. coeruleocephala, and Eversmann’s Redstart P. erythronotus have wingbars. VOICE Song a short, repeated phrase beginning with sharp whistles and ending in a trilled crescendo, followed by raspy notes heard at close range. Call a clear wheet, similar to other Phoenicurus. — Craig Brelsford

THE TRUE REDSTARTS OF CHINA covers all 12 members of Phoenicurus in China. Click any link below:

Przevalski’s Redstart Phoenicurus alaschanicus
Eversmann’s Redstart P. erythronotus
Blue-capped Redstart P. coeruleocephala
Black Redstart P. ochruros
Common Redstart P. phoenicurus
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps
Daurian Redstart P. auroreus
Güldenstädt’s Redstart P. erythrogastrus
Blue-fronted Redstart P. frontalis
Plumbeous Water Redstart P. fuliginosus
White-capped Redstart P. leucocephalus


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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