One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1The common redstart, Phoenicurus phoenicurus. Later also: (US) the American redstart, Setophaga ruticilla. Now rare.
2Any of several Australasian waxbills of the genus Stagonopleura and related genera, having predominantly grey plumage with red upper tail coverts; especially S. bella of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania.
Mid 18th century; earliest use found in John Hill (bap. 1714, d. 1775), physician and actor. From fire + tail.
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