Bird Families

Red-cheeked Redstart / Sheppardia bocagei


Gray-headed Redstart (Phoenicurus caeruleocephala) distributed in Central and Central Asia. It nests in spruce and juniper forests of the Tien Shan (to the west up to Aksu-Dzhabagly) and Dzhungarskiy Alatau, rising to the upper border of the forest, at an altitude of 2700-2800 meters above sea level. This bird prefers old, cluttered spruce forests with fallen branches at the outcrops of rocks and large stones. When flying, it can be found in deciduous and coastal forests, groves, gardens and, of course, in thickets of bushes.


Gray-headed redstart the size of an ordinary redstart, mostly black (with white on the belly and wing), with a gray-blue crown and without the reddish color in the tail area typical of redstarts. In the male, the top of the head is grayish blue. The rest of the plumage is black, with the exception of a white spot on the wing formed by part of the large and medium wing coverts and white outer webs on the hind secondary flight feathers (not along their entire length); the belly and undertail are also white. Underwings are black with an admixture of white. In fresh plumage, on the feathers of the dorsal side of the body and on the black plumage of the ventral side, there are reddish-gray edges, which largely hide the main color of the plumage. The female is grayish-brown with a dark brown tail and chestnut-red uppertail. Young birds are dark, grayish-brown with light streaks, the tail is dark gray, the upper tail is reddish-red.


Gray-headed redstart - an insectivorous bird. However, in the fall, she does not refuse honeysuckle berries and other trees and shrubs. From late August to late September, redstarts migrate to the south of Central Asia for wintering.


Gray-headed Redstarts arrive at nesting sites in mid-April. These birds nest in separate pairs, at a distance of 100-250 m from each other. Only the female builds the nest for 5-12 days (the male accompanies her). The nest is located on the ground under spruce roots, stones or stumps, in breaks or between stones, a nest is built from moss, thin twigs and dry grass and is lined with hair and feathers. Clutch of 3-5 light (bluish-white to beige) eggs with very small reddish specks is laid in late April - late July. Within 13-15 days, only the female incubates eggs. Both parents feed the chicks. Fledges appear on 15-17 days, in early June - mid-August, as an exception in early September. Already a week after the chicks leave, the female begins a new clutch and sits down to incubate it, and the male feeds the flying chicks for another week. In August, both young and adult birds molt. Autumn movements begin at the end of August, most birds migrate at the end of September.

Redstart: a bird with a beautiful bright red tail

The redstart is a very unusual and beautiful small bird that belongs to the order of passerines. Not all species of this bird are found in Russia, many so-called subspecies do not fly to our countries.

The most frequently mentioned and discussed birds of this species are the common redstart (coot, garden), nigella and Siberian redstart.

The length of its entire body reaches about 15 cm, and the wingspan is 24 cm.The bird weighs a maximum of 20-25 grams.

Where does the redstart live

You can meet this bird in many countries, but most of them live in Southeast Asia, almost the entire territory of Europe, in China, India, and Russia.

Mostly redstarts live in areas where there is a mountainous landscape, but they also settle in forests, especially in pine trees. Ordinary forests, enriched with many artisanal and herbaceous plants, are also well suited for settlement of these birds.

In our area, the garden redstart can be found in parks, orchards, vegetable gardens: the main thing is that there are many deciduous hollow trees growing around.

For wintering, redstarts fly to the southern parts of the Arabian Islands and Africa.

There are several varieties of these birds. The difference between any subspecies of these birds from others is a rather original color of feathers, which is much brighter and more attractive than that of other birds.

The redstart has a bright red tail, while the rest of the feathers are black, white and metallic gray. It is believed that the color of the male is much brighter than the plumage of the female.

It is interesting that in winter the tips of the feathers become slightly whitish in males of the gorikhvast. Redstarts are quite active birds: they do not sit still, but constantly fly over, creating a lot of noise at the same time.

What does this bird eat

Such birds feed on crawling and flying insects: flies, caterpillars, mosquitoes, butterfly pupae, and spiders and small snails can also be perfectly attributed to their diet. This is not to say that these birds only eat insects, they peck with great pleasure all kinds of small berries that grow on trees and shrubs.

The very process of obtaining and eating food is very interesting, the redstart does not immediately eat insects: first the bird catches the prey, after that it takes it to a place where there is no danger. The redstart first beats large beetles with its beak, or drops it on a hard surface of the ground to stun its prey. For grasshoppers or smaller insects, the redstart pinches off the legs.

Before bringing prey to feed their chicks, redstarts crush and grind insects and plucked berries with their beak, and only after that they send this “puree” into the beak of their babies.

How the redstart reproduces

Most often, redstarts build their nests in the hollows of various trees, sometimes their nests can be built under the roof of a human dwelling or in a structure made of wood (woodpile).

Cases of construction of nests in the roots of trees are not uncommon: it is quite convenient to fix the material from which the nest will be folded there. It is built from grass, twigs, moss, sometimes found threads, ropes, cotton wool are used.

The male makes sure that other birds do not settle in the newly built nest, he is also responsible for the cleanliness of the so-called house in which the chicks live (every day he takes out everything unnecessary in his beak).

The bird begins to lay eggs by the end of May, in one clutch there are 6-8 blue eggs. Incubation takes about two weeks, after which the chicks hatch, which are in the nest for another 15 days.

Both the female and the male feed their offspring: they bring food to their chicks up to 500 times a day. Parents accompany the chicks until they begin to fly confidently and find their own food.

The musical ability of the bird

The main advantage of the redstart is its singing, which is noticeably divided into three sections: introduction, climax and conclusion.

If you carefully observe the manner of their singing, you will notice that redstarts often seem to parody the singing of other birds.

Birds sing almost all the time, taking a break only at night, literally for several hours. As the sun rises, they begin to make the magic sounds of their beautiful song, actively twitching their tail.

By dawn, when the redstart sets in singing, the color of the plumage especially sparkles from the rising rays of the sun, which is why the redstart got this name, because from the combination of an orange tail and dazzling rays it may seem that the feathers of a feathered one are simply burning and ablaze.

Mostly males sing, they can perform about 500 songs in one day.

The benefits of the redstart for humans

This bird is quite useful for the garden and growing crops, as the bird does not eat green foliage like many other species of birds.

People are happy when this bird settles down near their summer cottage or garden, because it destroys insects that can harm the appearance of a good harvest (these include bedbugs, beetles, mosquitoes and insects that eat foliage).

What is interesting and unusual about this bird

  • Seeing in the mirror the reflection of its body, the redstart can rush at it with an attack,
  • The female prefers to catch insects on the surface of the earth, while the male catches insects in flight,
  • Redstarts can nurse chicks of other birds (for example, small cuckoos) on an equal basis with their own: feed them, teach them to eat and fly.

The redstart is one of the most interesting and recognizable birds, its color cannot be confused with the color of any other bird!

  • ← Arasari: beautiful and intelligent flocking bird
  • Black-headed and brown-headed tit: photos and facts →


  • Mountain Aleta Sheppardia montana Reichenow, 1907
  • Gabelian Akalat Sheppardia gabela Rand, 1957
  • Ugandan Akalat Sheppardia aequatorialis Jackson, 1906
  • Aleta Lowe Sheppardia lowei C. H. B. Grant & Mackworth-Praed, 1941
  • Blue-winged Akalat Sheppardia gunningi Haagner, 1909
  • Brown-sided akalat Sheppardia cyornithopsis Sharpe, 1901
  • Sheppardia aurantiithorax Beresford, Fjeldså, & Kiure, 2004
  • Red-cheeked chased redstart Sheppardia bocagei Finsch & Hartlaub, 1870
  • Akalat Sharpe Sheppardia sharpei Shelley, 1903

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