Blue-fronted Redstart

Blue-fronted Redstart
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis, male, Laifengshan National Forest Park (25.020811, 98.485581), Yunnan, China, elev. 1710 m (5620 ft.), February. (Craig Brelsford)
Blue-fronted Redstart
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis, male, Sichuan, China, August. (Craig Brelsford)
Blue-fronted Redstart
Male showing inverted T on tail, Qinghai, China, June. (Craig Brelsford)
Blue-fronted Redstart
Female Blue-fronted Redstart showing black T on tail, Laifengshan National Forest Park (25.020811, 98.485581), Yunnan, elev. 1710 m or (5620 ft.), February. (Craig Brelsford)

Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis ranges across Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau and central mountain ranges in China. In China from eastern Tibet, northern Yunnan, and Guizhou north to Qinghai and Gansu and east to Shaanxi. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Breeds in subalpine scrub above timberline, to 5200 m (17,060 ft.); in winter in open forests, at forest edge, around cultivated land, and in city parks, down to 1000 m (3,280 ft.). Wags rather than quivers tail. ID & COMPARISON Only redstart with black tips to all tail feathers. Black tips of outer tail feathers, along with completely black central rectrices, contrast with otherwise rufous outer tail feathers, forming an inverted T. Male unmistakable, being only Phoenicurus with blue hood. Non-breeding male has brown fringing on hood. Wings black; lower back, rump, uppertail coverts, and underparts (below hood) orange. Female mainly brown, slightly paler and more orange-rufous below, with blackish wings and buffish white tips to median and greater coverts and edges to tertials; rump and tail as male; tail pattern best distinguishes from other female redstarts. Juvenile has tail pattern like adult and darker ground color than female, with heavy buff mottling and stronger buff wingbars and tertial edges. BARE PARTS Bill, feet black. VOICE Clicking call recalls European Robin but often more rattling, and sometimes combined with clear wheet similar to other Phoenicurus. Song a variable series of sentences including sweet whistles, chirps, and rattles. — Craig Brelsford

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

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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