redstart, common name for an Old World thrush of the genus Phoenicurus, family Turdidae. A small, slender-legged songbird, it is found in woodlands, parks, and heaths. The European redstart, P. phoenicurus, also known as the firetail, breeds as far north as Scotland but winters in Africa. It is red-tailed and black-throated, with a bay-colored breast and ash-blue back and cap. It is a solitary bird and is highly aggressive during its breeding season. The Japanese P. aurorea is the easternmost representative of the genus. Redstarts build crude, cup-shaped nests either near the ground or in the hole of a tree or building. They lay from five to seven greenish-blue, faintly red-spotted eggs per clutch. The common name redstart is also used for several species of small New World wood-warblers, family Parulidae, in the genera Stetophaga and Myioborus. These are aerial insect catchers with wide, flat bills surrounded by stiff whiskerlike bristles called vibrissae. Like the Old World redstarts, to which they are not related, they are songbirds. The North American redstart ( S. ruticillia ) breeds in the temperate United States and Canada but winters in N South America. It is glossy black with a white breast and has orange wings, tail, and side patches. In females, gray and yellow replace black and orange. In the painted redstart ( S. picta ) of Central America, both sexes are equally brightly colored, red where its North American cousin is white, and white where the cousin is orange. There are also approximately ten species of redstarts in the tropical genus Myiobarus. The New World redstarts inhabit deciduous forest areas, preferably near water. Their eggs, from three to five per clutch in the northern species and from two to four per clutch in the tropical species, are grayish-white with variously colored spots and speckles. Redstarts are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, families Turdidae and Parulidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.