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Frequently seen on autumn migration and small numbers breed in Dorset.

Photograph by: 
Ian Ballam

In Britain the redstart is primarily a species of wooded valleys and hillsides in the the west and north of the country and is often associated with ancient oak forests. Dorset has little of this habitat and so as a breeding species here it is very scarce and it is seen more as a passage migrant. It also breed across much of mainland Europe and even in parts of Asia and Africa and it winters in Central Africa. It is likely that the migrant birds seen here are destined for other parts of Britain rather than location further east.

Spring migration appears to occur mainly in April with the earliest report since the Nature of Dorset database started in January 2017 being in week 13. The peak of spring migration is between week 15 and 17 and is effectively all over by week 19 in early May. There are then scattered reports during the summer months from its very few nesting sites before the autumn migration kicks off in August with the first signs showing in week 32, peaking in week 35 and then declining and they are all gone by week 42 in early October.

In common with many small migratory birds reports are widespread from across the county but Portland produces the bulk of the sightings with it being the first landfall on the way in in spring and the last chance of a snack before setting off across the Channel in autumn. Lamberts Castle produced a good number of records in the autumn of 2018 which shows that they do stay around for a while feeding up before making their final departure. 

Finding a redstart is always going to be a chance encounter and so it is difficult to predict where the best place to see one for your Dorset list is; it is a case of keeping your eyes open in autumn.



Common Name Redstart
Scientific Name Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Species Group Birds Thrushes and Chats
Status Restricted
Interest Level
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Look for

The unmissable reddish colour when it flies

Identification Notes
  • Very scarce nesting species in Dorset
  • Most frequent seen during the spring and autumn whilst on migration
  • The black face and red colouring of the male is totally diagnostic 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Thrushes and Chats