Common Redstart

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Common Name: Common Redstart
Scientific Name: Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Size: 5.1-5.7 inches (13-14.5 cm); Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 inches (20-27 cm)

Habitat: Europe, Asia and Africa; It is a summer visitor throughout most of Europe and western Asia (east to Lake Baikal), and also in northwest Africa in Morocco. It winters in central Africa and Arabia, south of the Sahara Desert but north of the Equator, from Senegal east to Yemen. It is widespread as a breeding bird in Great Britain, particularly in upland broadleaf woodlands and hedgerow trees, but in Ireland it is very local.

Common Redstarts prefer open mature birch and oak woodland where there is a high horizontal visibility and low amounts of shrub and understory. This is especially true where the trees are old enough to have holes suitable for their nests. They prefer to build their nest on the edge of woodland clearings. In Britain this occurs primarily in upland areas, less affected by agricultural intensification. Further east in Europe, they also commonly nest in lowlands, including parks and old gardens in urban areas. While in the north of the breeding range they use mature open conifer woodland.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 20,400,000-48,000,000 million individuals. In Europe, trends since 1980 show that populations have undergone a moderate increase, however in England, populations have declined by 55% in the past 25 years. The Forestry Commission has been offering grants under a scheme called “England's Woodland Improvement Grant “(EWIG); as well as the Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship Scheme to reverse this trend.

Diet: Insects and berries. Most of its food consists of winged insects. It often feeds like a flycatcher, making aerial sallies after passing insects.

Nesting: In summer the male has a slate-grey head and upper parts, except for the orange-chestnut rump and tail. This color is also found on the flanks, under wing coverts and axillaries. The forehead is white; the sides of the face and throat are black. The wings and the two central tail feathers are brown, the other tail feathers bright orange-red. The orange on the flanks shades to almost white on the belly. The bill and legs are black. In autumn, pale feather fringes on the body feathering obscures the colors of the male, giving it a washed-out appearance. Males found in Turkey and Caucasus have white Coverts (Ehrenberg's Redstart; P.p. samamicus). The female is browner, with a whitish throat and paler under parts; it lacks the black and slate coloration.

The males first arrive in early to mid-April, often a few days in advance of the females. They nest in natural tree holes, so dead trees or those with dead limbs are beneficial to the species; nest boxes are sometimes used. A high cover of moss and lichen is also preferred.

Five or six light blue eggs are laid during May, with a second brood in mid-summer in the south of the breeding range. It departs for Africa between mid-August and early October.

Cool Facts: The closest genetic relative of the Common Redstart may be the Moussier's Redstart, though incomplete sampling of the genus gives some uncertainty to this. Its ancestors were apparently the first redstarts to spread to Europe; they seem to have diverged from the Black Redstart group about 3 million years ago, during the Piacenzian. Genetically, Common and Black Redstarts are still fairly compatible and can produce hybrids that appear to be healthy and fertile, but they are separated by different behavior and ecological requirements so hybrids are very rare in nature.

Found in Songbird Remix Woodland Jewels

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