Black redstart voted Czech Bird of the Year 2024

Black redstart

The Czech Society for Ornithology has announced that the Bird of the Year for 2024 is the black redstart. Although the small sooty-coloured passerine bird is a common species in this part of the world, its migration behaviour has started to change as a result of the climate crisis. I spoke to one of our leading ornithologist Petr Voříšek:

Black redstart | Photo: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International

“Black redstart is a common species, usually in urban areas, but also in the mountains. It is originally a species typical for hilly or stony slopes in the open landscape. The cities and villages and towns resemble that kind of habitat, so the black redstart is a nice example of a species benefiting from landscape urbanisation.”

“The bird is more or less the size of a house sparrow. Its colour is a combination of black and grey, and the male is a bit more colourful, with an orange tail. What’s interesting about this species is that young males are very similar to the females. This is the way to reduce the competition. They simply pretend they are females and they are not attacked so aggressively by older males.”

One of the aims of the Bird of the Year campaign is to raise awareness of declining bird species, but I believe the population numbers of the black redstart, unlike many other bird species, have actually increased in recent years. So why have you chosen the black redstart as Bird of the Year 2024?

Black redstart | Photo: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International

“Indeed, the black redstart is doing well and there is no reason to be concerned, at least for now, about its population. The reason for selecting this species as Bird of the Year is that it’s changing its migration behaviour.

“In the past, black redstarts from Czechia migrated to the Mediterranean to spend the winter there, just like many other species. But now, more and more individuals stay over the winter, probably because of the climate change. So the black redstart is a nice example of a species adapting and changing its behaviour to the climate change.”

The Czech ornithological society has launched a campaign to map the population of the black redstart in winter to see how many of these birds actually prefer to stay in the country instead of migrating to the south. Can you tell us a little bit more about this event?

“We invite the public to send us records of black redstarts in the period from December until the end of February. What we need is the date of the observation and the number of birds and their location. Our colleagues from the academy of science will the process the data.”

So if I understand it correctly, the climate change may not affect the population of the black redstarts, but we don’t know what it will do to other species.

“Indeed, the climate change effect is not a one-side effect. In Czechia, we are getting some more species and some species like the black redstarts are benefiting from that, but at the same time, we are also losing at some Nordic species.”