Black Redstart adult has dark greyish or blackish plumage. Rump, vent and tail are orange-red, very conspicuous in flight, or when tail is fanned. We can see sometimes a whitish wing panel. Underparts are black or greyish black. Breast is darker than belly. Crown and nape are greyish black. Forehead and face are black. Pointed bill, eyes, legs and feet are black. Female is duller, with uniform smoky grey-brown plumage. Greyish breast is slightly streaked with darker. Juvenile is slightly mottled with browner plumage than female. First year is very similar to female. First spring male lacks pale wing panel. Many young males resemble female until second autumn.
Black Redstart lives in rocky hilly or mountainous areas, towns and villages. We can find it at up to 2500 metres of elevation. It has adapted to live in industrial and urban centres, and may nest in railway stations, factories, buildings, quarries and cliffs. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE: Black Redstart breeds in South and Central Europe, very localized in Great Britain. It is resident in most of its range, but northern birds winter in southern Europe and North Africa.
Phoenicurus ochruros is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is very large (>4,000,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although there were declines in a few populations during 1990-2000—notably the sizeable one in France—trends were stable or increasing across most of Europe, and the species underwent a small increase overall.
Black Redstart feeds mainly on insects and their larvae. On the beaches, they eat a good quantity of tiny crustaceans. In late summer and in autumn, they also consume fruits and berries.
This species has a large global range; the total size has not yet been quantified, but the Extent of Occurrence in Africa alone is estimated to be 1,400,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 7,900,000-18,000,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Black Redstart's nest is often located in holes, cavities, crevices, in industrial centres, in all parts where it can find a small place to build its nest. Female builds the loose nest, with dry grasses and leaves at base (in urban areas) and with mosses (in rocks and cliffs). Nest is lined with hair and feathers.
Female lays 4 to 6 glossy white eggs. Incubation lasts about 13 days, by female alone. Both parents feed the altricial chicks with insects and caterpillars. At hatching, chicks are covered with sparse dark grey down on head and back.
Young fledge between 12 and 18 to 20 days after hatching, according to the weather and disturbances. They remain hidden on the ground, before their first flight, at about 32 to 35 days of age.
This species produces two broods per season, sometimes three, in the same place each year, but they build a new nest.
During breeding season, Black Redstart sings continuously, and more and more when spring is coming. Birds perform some dances before copulation. They are monogamous the most of time, but some males may have two females. Black Redstart is often moving. When alarmed or excited, it gives brief sharp calls while crouching and flickering its tail. It chases away from its territory even the birds of its own species.
Resident, partial migrant, or migrant in different parts of range, main wintering area for west Palearctic breeders being Mediterranean basin, with a few on west coast of Europe and some southward extension to north-west and (especially) north-east Africa. P. o. gibraltariensis (breeding in most of European range east to Ukraine and Crimea) winters in small numbers in Britain and west and central France; regular in winter in Belgium, and occasional in Switzerland and Germany. Northern limit of wintering varies from year to year. Southern limit is northern edge of Sahara with occasional records further south. However, bulk winter in Mediterranean basin, being common on coasts and islands in western Mediterranean. Nominate ochruros (breeding eastern Turkey and Caucasus east to northern Iran) makes only short movements to winter in western Zagros mountains of Iran and in Iraq; present on breeding grounds from end of March or early April to end of September.