It is a migratory insectivorous species breeding in wet birch wood or bushy swamp in Europe and Asia with a foothold in western Alaska. It nests in tussocks or low in dense bushes. It winters in north Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
The bluethroat is similar in size to the European robin at 13–14 cm. It is plain brown above except for the distinctive black tail with red side patches. It has a strong white supercilium. The male has an iridescent blue bib edged below with successive black, white and rust coloured borders.
Females of all races usually have just a blackish crescent on an otherwise cream throat and breast. Newly fledged juveniles are freckled and spotted dark brown above.