Redstart one of the most memorable birds living in parks, gardens and natural landscapes of Russia. For the spectacular bright tail, which is visible from afar, the bird received the name - Redstart. The contrast of color is more noticeable in males, and females and young birds have a more pastel color. However, a characteristic feature - a bright red swaying tail, is present in all birds.
Origin of view and description
The first formal description of the redstart was made by the Swedish naturalist C. Linney in 1758 in the publication Systema Naturae under the binomial name Motacilla phoenicurus. The name of the genus Phoenicurus was designated by the English naturalist Tomos Forster in 1817. The genus and name of the species phoenicurus comes from two ancient Greek words phoinix "red" and -ouros - "tailed".
Interesting fact: Redstart are typical representatives of the Muscicapidae family, which is rightly indicated by the etymology of the scientific name, born as a result of the merger of the two Latin terms "musca" = fly and "capere" = catch.
The closest genetic relative of the common redstart is the white-browed redstart, although the selection of the genus gives some uncertainty to this. Her ancestors may have been the first redstart to spread to Europe. It is believed that they moved away from the group of black redstart about 3 million years ago at the end of the Pliocene.
Genetically, common and black redstart are still quite compatible and can produce hybrids that appear healthy and prolific. However, these two groups of birds are separated by different behavioral traits and environmental requirements, so hybrids are very rare in nature. Redstart became the bird of the year in Russia in 2015.
Appearance and features
Photo: Redstart Bird
The redstart is very similar in appearance and behavior to a zoryanka. She has the same body length of 13-14.5 cm, but a slightly slimmer figure and less weight 11-23 g. The color of the orange-red tail, from which the redstart got its name, often fluctuates in color combinations. Among ordinary European birds, only the black redstart (P. ochrurus) has a tail of the same color.
The male is strikingly contrasting in color. In summer, it has a slate-gray head and upper part, except for the sacrum and tail, which, like the sides, underwings, and axillaries, are orange-chestnut in color. The forehead is white, the face on the sides and throat are black. The wings and two central tail feathers are brown, the remaining tail feathers are bright orange-red. The orange hue on the sides turns almost white on the stomach. Beak and paws are black. In the fall, pale feathers hide along the edges of the body, giving the color a blurry look.
Females are discreetly painted. The upper surface is brownish. The lower side of the body is light beige with a lush orange breast, sometimes intense, which clearly separates from the gray to dark gray chin and sides of the neck. Bottom side contrasting more clearly with the orange bottom. The wings are brownish, as in the male, the underside is beige with an orange tint. In colors, she lacks black and slate, and her throat is whitish. With age, females can approach the color of males and become more contrasting.
Where does the redstart live?
Photo: Redstart in Russia
The distribution of this western and central Palearctic species is located in the temperate part of Eurasia, including the boreal, Mediterranean and steppe zones. In the southern parts of the nesting area is bounded by mountains. In the north of the Iberian Peninsula, the redstart is not common, mainly in the southern and western parts of it. There are cases of dispersed nesting of these birds in northern Africa.
In the British Isles, this occurs in the far east of Ireland and is absent in the Scottish Islands. In the eastern direction, the range extends to Siberia to Lake Baikal. Some small populations can be found even east of it. In the north, the range extends in Scandinavia to 71 ° north latitude, includes the Kola Peninsula, and then east to the Yenisei in Russia. in Italy, the species is absent in Sardinia and Corsica. Habitats are quite scattered on the Balkan Peninsula and reach northern Greece.
Interesting fact: Redstart actively nests in the southern and northern edge of the Black Sea and in the southwestern Caucasus and approximately 50 ° N through Kazakhstan to the Saur Mountains and further east to the Mongolian Altai. In addition, the distribution extends from the Crimea and the east of Turkey to the Caucasus and the mountain system of Kopetdag and north-eastern Iran to the Pamirs, in the south to the Zagros mountains. Small populations nest in Syria.
Common redstart prefer open mature forests with birches and oaks, from which a good view of the area with a low number of shrubs and undergrowth opens, especially where the trees are old enough to have holes suitable for nesting. They prefer to nest at the edge of the forest.
In Europe, it also includes parks and old gardens in urban areas. They nest in the natural recesses of trees, so dead trees or those that have dried branches are useful for this species. They often use old open coniferous forests, especially in the northern part of the breeding range.
What does the redstart eat?
Photo: Female Redstart
Redstart seeks food mainly on the ground, in the lower layer of shrubs and grasses. If in the upper layer of a bush or tree there is a sufficient number of swarming insects, the bird certainly also eats them. The diet of the redstart consists of small invertebrate animals, but plant foods, especially berries, also play a role. The range of prey is diverse, it includes more than 50 families of insects, various arachnids and many other soil inhabitants.
Redstart diet includes:
- wood lice;
- snails (used as a diet supplement).
Berries and other fruits are sometimes fed chicks, and also after adult breeding season - adult animals eat. Defensive insects such as bees and wasps are not used in writing. The size of the production is from two to eight millimeters. Large prey is dismembered before feeding. The Redstart mainly expects the prey to appear, hiding in elevated places such as stones, poles or roofs, sparse bushes or trees.
The distance to production is usually two to three meters, but may be more than ten meters. As an alternative to prey hunting, the redstart also searches for food directly on the ground in various ways. For this, she has well-adapted paws and equally long internal and external fingers for jogging. Most of the time she moves, bouncing. Thus, the redstart demonstrates a high degree of flexibility in the selection and fishing of prey.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Male Redstart
The redstart usually sits on the lower branches of trees or smaller bushes and makes amazing trembling tail movements. To find food, the bird briefly goes to the ground or catches insects during a short flight in the air. Winters in central Africa and Arabia, south of the Sahara desert, but north of the equator and from eastern Senegal to Yemen. Birds migrate to areas that are close to the savannah climate. Rare winter migrants are also observed in the Sahara or Western Europe.
Interesting fact: Southeast subspecies winters south of the breeding area, mainly in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, in Ethiopia and Sudan east of the Nile. Redstart leaves early for wintering. Migration takes place from mid-July and ends somewhere in late September. The main departure time is in the second half of August. Late birds can be found until October, very rarely in November.
In breeding places, the earliest birds arrive at the end of March, the main arrival time is from mid-April to early May. The migratory movements of the redstart depend on the available feed. In cold weather, the bulk of the food is made up of berries. After arrival, the males sing almost throughout the day, only their song does not have a completed ending. In July, the redstart is no longer audible.
Shedding takes place in July - August. Redstart are not very sociable birds, out of breeding season, they are almost always alone in search of food. Only in places of accumulation of prey, for example, on the banks of rivers, there are insignificant accumulations of birds, but even then a considerable distance between them remains.
Social structure and reproduction
Redstart nests in caves or any recesses in trees, in woodpecker nests. The inside should not be completely dark, it should be lit with a weak light, such as a wide entrance or a second hole. Often this species propagates in hollow caves, such as crevices of rocks, hollow fence posts. Often nests are located in man-made buildings. Most of the nests are located at a height of one to five meters. If the masonry is placed on the ground, then it should be in a protected place.
Redstart adhere to the monogamous method of reproduction. Males arrive a little earlier at the breeding place and go in search of suitable shelters for nest formation. The final decision is made by the female. The nest is built almost exclusively by the female, for which it takes from 1.5 to 8 days. Size is often determined by the volume of the nesting cavity.
Straw, grass, moss, leaves, or pine needles are used to lay the nesting site. Often there are small admixtures of other, coarser materials, such as bark, small twigs, lichens or willow. The width of the building is from 60 to 65 mm, the depth is from 25 to 48 mm. The inner part consists of the same material as the base, but it is thinner and installs more accurately. It is covered with feathers, moss, animal hair, or something similar.
Interesting fact: If the brood is lost, there may be a late replacement of the brood. The earliest start of oviposition is the end of April / beginning of May, the last oviposition was observed in the first half of July.
Clutch consists of 3-9, usually 6 or 7 eggs. The eggs are oval, have a deep greenish-blue slightly shiny color. Incubation lasts 12 to 14 days and begins shortly after the last egg has been laid. Hatching chicks can take more than a day. After 14 days, young birds begin to fly. Young birds migrate very quickly to winter places of settlement. They become sexually mature by the end of the first year of life.
Natural enemies of the Redstart
Photo: Redstart Bird
The habit of the redstart to hide, helps her survive inside the settlements. All her behavior indicates caution, secrecy and incredulity, especially during the breeding season, when alertness and observation are intensified. The bird remains for hours in a hidden place among the leaves of a small shrub or in almost complete darkness, ready to defend itself as soon as it sees the danger.
The loss of eggs and chicks is relatively small, because the nests are well protected and inaccessible to predators. Under normal circumstances, from 90% of the eggs hatch successfully, and up to 95% of the hatched chicks independently fly out of the nest.
Egg hatching is affected by:
- in urban areas, more than a third of these cases are related to human intervention.
- in mountainous areas, cold periods dramatically increase the mortality of chicks.
- further losses are caused by ectoparasites and the cuckoo, which regularly lays eggs in the nest of the black redstart, especially in the alpine region.
The most important predators for adult birds are the Sparrowhawk and the Barn Owl. The latter prevents the redstart from resting. Owls incubate their eggs on the roof, and redstart under the roof. It is striking that redstart, unlike other birds, such as blackbirds, sparrows or finches, rarely become victims of traffic. This may be due to the maneuverability of moving objects, which are important for the redstart as a hunter.
In addition, the enemies of the redstart are: cat, squirrel, magpie, affection, man. Regarding the age structure of populations, observational data and forecasts show that about half of the sexually active birds are annuals. Another 40 percent - from one to three years, only about 3 percent - five years or older. The previously known maximum age of free-living redstart is ten years.
Population and species status
Photo: Redstart in Russia
The number of redstart has declined sharply since the 1980s. In addition to habitat destruction in breeding areas, the main reasons for this are profound changes in poultry wintering areas in Africa, such as increased use of pesticides + insecticides and a serious expansion of the Sahel.
Interesting fact: European populations are estimated at four to nine million breeding pairs. Despite the decline in some places (England, France), in general, the population of redstart in Europe increased. In this regard, the species is not classified as endangered and there are no known conservation measures.
This species would benefit from the conservation of old, deciduous and mixed forests and large trees in urban stands. At the local level, in a suitable habitat, the population will benefit from the provision of nesting sites. It is recommended to maintain traditional gardens with tall trees and areas with sparse vegetation. These methods should be encouraged through agroecological schemes. In addition, small areas of the dense meadow should be mowed throughout the breeding season in order to maintain suitable feeding grounds.
Redstart has a huge range and, as a result, does not reach the threshold values for vulnerable species according to the criterion of the size of the range. A noticeable increase in the number of these birds became at the end of World War II in the destroyed cities. Temporary population losses were offset in subsequent periods due to the expansion of built-up areas and residential areas.