Like other “winter visitors” to the region the Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros has a year-long presence in southern Spain, but our local, resident population is boosted every year with a seasonal influx of migratory birds from more northerly parts of its European range…
Through the summer we usually have to travel just a little higher into the mountains to see this species, but these new arrivals can be surprisingly bold and can be seen all around the village during the colder months. They’re often a bird of mountainous country, favouring scree-covered slopes with boulders and rocky outcrops – but in more recent years have shown a readiness to occupy ruins, old buildings and a range other urban and industrial sites quite close to human habitation.
Females and immature males are a fairly uniform, charcoal grey, with orange-red lower rumps and tails. Not always the most striking of birds – note how the bright light has given quite a pale cast to the individual in the shots shown above – but they have one or two lttle habits in their behaviour that soon become familiar, tell-tale clues to its ID.
Bold, upright and alert, the Black Redstart flits between favourite perches, hawking insects in mid-air or darting down to snatch prey off the ground. Always restless, it often bobs its head and body – very much like a Robin, in fact – and frequently vibrates and flicks its distinctive, rusty-red tail.
The males are without a doubt a handsome sight when seen well – grey bodies, black chests, faces and wings, with a white wing bar and rich, orange-red lower rump and tail. Many retain this bright plumage throughout the winter – and they’re always a favourite local species for us at this time of the year.
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