The rufous-backed redstart (Phoenicurus erythronotus) is a small bird, named for the beautiful reddish-orange (‘rufous’) plumage on the back of the male. The male rufous-backed redstart also has a reddish-orange throat, breast and tail, the central two feathers of which are brown. The belly is white and the blackish wings bear a long, white streak (2)(3). The face of the male is black, contrasting with the grey crown (3).
The female varies quite dramatically in appearance and lacks much of the striking ‘rufous’ colour. Instead, the plumage is brown on the upperparts and paler underneath (2)(3).
Both sexes have small, fairly weak legs, and a short, flattened bill which is wide at the base. Bristles at the corners of the mouth help to funnel food and protect the bird’s eyes from insect legs when eating (2).
The rufous-backed redstart, also known as Eversmann’s redstart, is not a very vocal or musical bird. Its songs are made up of a mix of short, harsh, wheezy and often slurred notes (2).
Insects, such as flies, ants and moths, are the main components of the rufous-backed redstart’s diet (2). These winged prey items are typically caught by pouncing from a low perch, but they may also be plucked from vegetation as the redstart moves around on the ground. This species may also feed on berries (2).
The rufous-backed redstart lays eggs in June and July (2). Typically, it will lay three to six eggs at a time, which are pale green and speckled with brownish-grey (2).
The rufous-backed redstart occurs in Central Asia and southern Siberia (3). It breeds in northern parts of its range, including Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (4), and winters in the south, from Afghanistan, west to Iraq, and south to Saudi Arabia and Oman (3)(4).
The rufous-backed redstart inhabits rocky scrub land and temperate forest, and can also be found in agricultural land and rural gardens. It occurs up to an altitude of 5,400 metres, but favours lower elevations during winter, down to 2,100 metres (2)(4).
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