Mountain Birds with Clean Nests


White-Winged Redstart

A white-winged redstart, the largest redstart, is similar to a chat. Typical features of the adult male redstart include rufous-orange underparts and tail; black and gray upperparts; and white crown, nape, and patches on wings. Although the female shares rufous-orange tail yet buff body separates it from the male. They slightly quiver their tails while perching. The bills are pointed and short. The birds breed above tree line in open alpine environmen­ts with or without cover. For example, altitudina­l range for breeding varies from 3,600 to 5,200m. The tough species of redstarts breed in rocky and stony areas, including cliffs and peaks, alpine meadows, scrublands, and shrub-lands. The redstarts, preferring non-inhabited areas, have been sighted even in glacial debris, ice, and snow. So, sightings reported from the high altitude passes of Ladakh are no surprise. Male birds sing and display white patches on fully spread wings during show-flights to impress and win a mate. The hole-nesters produce pale blue or white eggs with pastel red spots in cup-shaped nests made in a hole in bank, cliff, and ground; rock crevices; and scree. The nest is primarily made of grass, fine stems, plant fibers, and animal wool or hair. Both parents look after nestlings. The mountain bird from Asia is also named after Baltic-German professor Johann Anton Güldenstäd­t, an eighteenth century traveler, naturalist, physician, and scientist: Güldenstäd­t’s Redstart (eponym). Güldenstäd­t’s redstarts, one of the passerines that breed at the high-extreme altitude, are winter visitors to the Himalayas as well as its residents.

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