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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Redstart \Red"start`\ (-st?rt`), n. [Red + start tail.] (Zo["o]l.)

  1. A small, handsome European singing bird ( Phoenicurus phoenicurus, formerly Ruticilla phoenicurus), allied to the nightingale; -- called also redtail, brantail, fireflirt, firetail. The black redstart is Phoenicurus ochruros (formerly Phoenicurus tithys), and is now rare and protected by law in England. The name is also applied to several other species of Ruticilla and allied genera, native of India.

  2. An American fly-catching warbler ( Setophaga ruticilla). The male is black, with large patches of orange-red on the sides, wings, and tail. The female is olive, with yellow patches.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

type of bird, 1560s, from red (adj.1) + start "tail," from Old English steort. Similar formation in German Rotsterz.


n. Any of various insectivorous ground feeding birds, mainly of the genus ''Phoenicurus''. Many of the species have a red tail.

  1. n. flycatching warbler of eastern North America the male having bright orange on sides and wings and tail [syn: American redstart, Setophaga ruticilla]

  2. European songbird with a reddish breast and tail; related to Old World robins [syn: redtail]


Redstarts are a group of small Old World birds. They were formerly classified in the thrush family ( Turdidae), but are now known to be part of the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae. They are currently treated in four genera, the true redstarts Phoenicurus, the closely related genera Chaimarrornis and Rhyacornis, and the less closely related genus Hodgsonius.

These are insectivorous ground feeding birds, most of which have the red tail which gives the group its name; "start" is the modern English reflex of Middle English stert, Old English steort, tail of an animal. Most species are migratory, with northern species being long-distance migrants and more southerly species often being altitudinal migrants breeding at high altitude and moving lower down in winter.

They are small insectivores, the males mostly brightly coloured in various combinations of red, blue, white, and black, the females light brown with a red tail. Recent genetic studies have shown that the genus Phoenicurus is not monophyletic, but may be made so by the inclusion of Chaimarrornis and Rhyacornis within Phoenicurus; this conclusion is yet to be taken up by the International Ornithological Congress.

The New World redstarts in the genera Setophaga and Myioborus are not closely related; they are New World warblers in the family Parulidae. Members of the latter genus, with extensive white and no red in their tails, are now more often called "whitestarts".

Usage examples of "redstart".

The voice of the hen, of the redstart, the creaking of a wheel, were imitated by my child of his own accord long before he could speak a word.

Icefalcon was aware of them when they came up the coulee to the northwest as a redstart and a raven flew out of the trees.

I sometimes used to talk on walks in Surrey when I was a kid - Green Line bus, a few hours in the woods - and it was my fault the cuckoo or redstart or fieldfare or siskin flew away, and never came back the whole day.

Here they often spent a Saturday afternoon, reading, or making rush baskets, or wreaths of flowers, and listening to the sweet singing of the redstart, whose nest was in the top of the oak.

Small warblers and flycatchers flitted from thicket to tall tree, while tiny stints, redstarts, and shrikes darted from branch to branch.

Small warblers and flycatchers flitted from ree, while tiny stints, redstarts, and shrikes darted from nch.