In late fall and winter many beautiful small birds migrate to Shiga Prefecture in Japan. One of the most colorful species is the Daurian redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus), in Japanese, jōbitaki (ジョウビタキ).
Breeding males are easy to spot: orange chest and lower back, black upper back, head, and neck, grey crown and nape, and very dark brown wings with large white patches. They often perch out in the open, which makes them easy to photograph.
Redstarts are sexually dimorphic. Females are not so colorful. They’re brown above, lighter below, with an orange rump and back-and-orange tail. They’re inconspicuous except in flight. Sometimes they appear in the open, but they tend to stay in or near trees and bushes.
Daurian redstarts seem to be very territorial and easy to spot if you known where to look. I often see a male in a neighbor’s garden, several males and females along the river in Ritto and Moriyama, a male in the Omifuji Botanical Gardens, and a female in a little playground near the JR train tracks in Yasu City. It is always a pleasure to see such beautiful creatures so close to home.