Grey catbird in Italy ?

Hallo everyone, I have set up on my balcony a hanging bird feeder with home-made suet and sunflower seed balls. It is regularly visited by great tits, robins  and (unfortunately) very hungry blackbirds. In the last week I have noticed a new visitor: a grey bird just slightly larger than a robin with a weird tail-flicking behaviour and a reddish undertail (which I can distinctly see when it opens its wings and hovers close to the feeder for a few quick pecks at the balls).

I googled it up and it looks exactly like a grey catbird. I live in Milan, Italy, and I take it this bird is American and has been rarely sighted in Europe, the last sighting being in the UK (Cornwall) in October this year ( I have taken a few amateurish photographs with an old camera and I would like to have your opinion on what kind of bird it actually is.



  • Hi Paolo and welcome to the Forum. I don't think we've had anyone from Italy on here before.

    Not a Grey Catbird I'm afraid. It's a Black Redstart but an equally nice bird to have on your balcony.



    My Flickr Photostream 

  • Hi Paolo welcome to the community I think your bird is a Redstart, not sure if it's a Common or Black one but Teejay will be along to give you a positive ID.

    edit...I see TJ beat me too it LOL

    My Flickr photos

  • In reply to TeeJay:

    Thank you so much  for the identification (and for the warm welcome from the UK)!! I agree: it's an attractive bird although it's not  "a celebrity".Do you know if it uses nesting boxes and what kind? Actually, there's a pair of them and I would like to lure them into nesting on the balcony.

  • This is our Black Redstart nesting box which we built from a design in a book. If you're interested I'll go & measure it up, but not today as very cold out there!

    We have a male that comes to feed in winter & it loves dried mealworms.

    Best wishes

    Hazel in the Gironde estuary, France

  • While Hazel gets her coat and gloves on I've found this

    My Flickr photos

  • In reply to Alan:

    I had a better idea & found the book. It's very similar to Alan's but bigger & says it's suitable for both types of Redstart, White/Pied Wagtail & Flycatchers. The roof is 22cm x 22cm, Back 15cm x 15cm, Front 8cm x 15cm, Bottom 12cm x 15cm, & the 2 sides are 19/12,5 x 15cm. The wood is 2cm thick. I can scan the book but it's in French.

    Best wishes

    Hazel in the Gironde estuary, France

  • In reply to Alan:

    Alan and Noisette, so nice of you to come up with all this detailed information! It looks very much like the robin nesting box I I have put up a couple of weeks ago. I guess I will have to buy or make another one for the redstart, it's getting pretty crowded on my balcony...

  • Hi there, I’m in Switzerland. In a small village in the mountains on the border of Austria and Italy. I spotted some similar birds in my garden some years ago and because they sing so crazily at night I thought they must be nightingales (somebody also suggested a grey catbird). Quite small birds with mousy brown feathers and beautiful orange under the tail which they’re constantly showing off with. They’re very playful & daring if I’m sitting outside. They don’t eat from the food things that the blue tits & great tits eat from. They hang out on the ground and eat from there. They always come back every year. Do you think they are redstarts too or is it possible they’re nightingales? Today I also spotted a little black bird (even it’s head & beak) very similar size with those same beautiful tail feathers. I couldn’t get any photos up till now. Would love to know what these are. Thank you in advance. Renata
  • Wren, The little black bird is likely to be a male black redstart, so sounds like you have the same species as referred to earlier in this old thread.
  • And the best way (in my experience) to spot them Wren Sunshine is to look up at the rooftops.

    Here in western Switzerland, they call and sing from the apex of roofs, preferably from the corners.

    Hear a redstart crackle; look up to a roof; that's your bird.

    Common Redstarts (in French, White-Foreheaded Red Tails) will, I would say, be much rarer. As Robbo states, the small, black bird will be a male Black Redstart.

    And the young already have a noticeable, if a little short, tail.

    All the best -