White-capped Redstart

White-capped Redstart
White-capped Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus, Wolong-Balangshan Road, Sichuan, China, elev. 3500 m (11,480 ft.), May. (Craig Brelsford)
White-capped Redstart
Confiding White-capped Redstart strikes expressive pose atop guardrail, Sichuan. (Craig Brelsford)

White-capped Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus ranges across Himalayas and throughout most of high country of central and eastern China. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Breeds between 2400-4200 m (7,870-13,780 ft.), rarely to 5100 m (16,730 ft.), usually near rushing mountain streams; also moist rocky mountainsides. Winters foothills to lowlands, always near streams. Perches prominently on boulders amid rushing streams and atop guardrails on mountain roads; can be confiding. Often seen with dippers, Grey Wagtail, and Plumbeous Water Redstart P. fuliginosus. Bobs head when alighting; also fans and flicks tail and droops wings. ID & COMPARISON Large, white capped, with black forehead, face, chin, throat, upper breast, mantle, and wings. Rufous-orange from lower breast to vent as well as on lower back, rump, uppertail coverts, and tail, which has a broad black terminal band. Juvenile duller, being mostly blackish on belly with rufous-brown scaling (becoming more rufous-orange towards vent), and with some black scaling on white cap and rufous-orange lower back. Juvenile also shows buff fringes to black breast and mantle and buff tips to greater coverts. Güldenstädt’s Redstart P. erythrogastrus has white wing patch and completely rufous tail. BARE PARTS Bill, feet black. VOICE Call a shrill “tsee” whistle, rising in pitch, lasting one second and delivered repeatedly at one- or two-second intervals. Song a weak, melodious whistle lasting one second and delivered at intervals of five to six seconds. — Craig Brelsford


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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