American RedstartSetophaga ruticilla

adult male
Gerard Bailey/VIREO
adult female
Gerard Bailey/VIREO
immature male
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult male
Glenn Bartley/VIREO

Family

Description

Warblers in general are often called "the butterflies of the bird world," but the Redstart may live up to that nickname more than any other species. This beautiful warbler flits about very actively in the trees, usually holding its wings and tail partly spread, as if to show off their patches of color. At times it feeds more like a flycatcher than a typical warbler, hovering among the foliage and often flying out to grab insects in mid-air.

Habitat

Second-growth woods, river groves. Breeds in open deciduous and mixed woodland, preferring edges of forests or second growth. Attracted also to roadside trees, shrubby and tree-lined stream banks, and ponds. Will nest in second-growth maples, birch, and aspen following fire in coniferous forests. In the Northwest, prefers willow and alder thickets. In winter in the tropics, found in lowland woods.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects including beetles, caterpillars, moths, leafhoppers, aphids, midges, crane flies; also spiders anddaddy longlegs. Also eats some seeds and berries.

Feeding Behavior

Forages very actively, often flying out to catch insects in mid-air or hovering to take them from foliage. Flycatches much more than most warblers, drooping its wings, fanning its tail, and leaping high in the air. Males feed higher and make more mid-air sallies than do females early in the nesting season. Does not cling to tips of branches while hanging upside down as do many warblers. Holds large caterpillars and moths in the bill and bangs them on perch before eating.

Nesting

Males sometimes mate with more than one female and raise 2-3 broods simultaneously. Males perform a frequent boundary display flight toward rivals, with stiffened wingbeats and a glide back to the original perch in a semicircle. Male displays to female during courtship by fluffing plumage, raising crown feathers, spreading wings and tail, and bowing. Nest site picked by female, usually in fork of tree, 4-70' above the ground; rarely on the ground. Open cup nest (built by female) of plant fibers, grass, rootlets, decorated with lichen, birch bark, and feathers; lined with feathers. Sometimes will use old nests of other birds. Eggs: 4, sometimes 2-5. Off-white, with brown or gray marks. Incubation by female only, 11-12 days. Often parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Fed by both parents. Leave the nest at 9 days old. The parents divide the brood into 2 parts, each parent attending only half the fledglings. Normally 1 brood per season.

Eggs

4, sometimes 2-5. Off-white, with brown or gray marks. Incubation by female only, 11-12 days. Often parasitized by cowbirds. Young: Fed by both parents. Leave the nest at 9 days old. The parents divide the brood into 2 parts, each parent attending only half the fledglings. Normally 1 brood per season.

Young

Fed by both parents. Leave the nest at 9 days old. The parents divide the brood into 2 parts, each parent attending only half the fledglings. Normally 1 brood per season.

Conservation

Still widespread and very common, but surveys suggest that numbers may be declining slightly.

Range

Migrates mostly at night. Fall migration begins early, with many southbound in August. Small numbers of strays appear throughout the west, and a few may winter in southern California.

Listen

alarm chips
songs #4
songs #1
songs #3
songs & calls #1
more calls
dawn song
songs #5
songs #2

Similar Species

adult male, breeding

Black-throated Blue Warbler

The lazy, buzzy song of the Black-throated Blue Warbler comes from the undergrowth of leafy eastern woods. Although the bird usually keeps to the shady understory, it is not especially shy; a birder who walks quietly on trails inside the forest may observe it closely. It moves about rather actively in its search for insects, but often will forage in the same immediate area for minutes at a time, rather than moving quickly through the forest like some warblers.

adult male, Myrtle, breeding

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Flashing its trademark yellow rump patch as it flies away, calling check for confirmation, this is one of our best-known warblers. While most of its relatives migrate to the tropics in fall, the Yellow-rump, able to live on berries, commonly remains as far north as New England and Seattle; it is the main winter warbler in North America. Included in this species are two different-looking forms, the eastern "Myrtle" Warbler and western "Audubon's" Warbler.

adult male, Interior West, breeding

Yellow Warbler

The bright, sweet song of the Yellow Warbler is a familiar sound in streamside willows and woodland edges. This is one of our most widely distributed warblers, nesting from the Arctic Circle to Mexico, with closely related forms along tropical coastlines. Their open, cuplike nests are easy to find, and cowbirds often lay eggs in them. Yellow Warblers in some areas thwart these parasites by building a new floor over the cowbird eggs and laying a new clutch of their own.

adult male

Lucy's Warbler

Small, pale, and plain, this bird is unimpressive in appearance, but it is notable as the only warbler that nests in the hot deserts of the Southwest. Lucy's Warblers return to the desert early in spring, and pairs can be found foraging in brush along the washes even before the mesquites have leafed out. Unlike most warblers, they raise their young in cavities, placing their nests inside old woodpecker holes or under loose slabs of bark.

adult

Bananaquit

Fond of nectar, this little bird often creeps about in flowering trees, probing the blossoms. It is widespread in the American tropics and especially numerous in the West Indies, including the Bahamas. Strays from the Bahamas have turned up a number of times in southern Florida, mainly in winter.

adult male

Baltimore Oriole

One of the most brilliantly colored songbirds in the east, flaming orange and black, sharing the heraldic colors of the coat of arms of 17th-century Lord Baltimore. Widespread east of the Great Plains, Baltimore Orioles are often very common in open woods and groves in summer. Their bag-shaped hanging nests, artfully woven of plant fibers, are familiar sights in the shade trees in towns. This bird was formerly considered to belong to the same species as the western Bullock's Oriole, under the combined name of Northern Oriole.

Vireo

iPad Promo