American Redstart

The American Redstart is a migratory warbler that breeds in Southern Canada, the northern East Coast of the United States, A bit of the northern interior states, and the southern east coast (not including Florida). It then migrates to western and south-eastern Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America in the winter.

The American Redstart is a medium-sized warbler that is about the size of a Black-capped Chickadee. It has a length that is about 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm), weight that is about 0.2-0.3 oz (6-9 g), and a wingspan that is about 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm).

The Male American Redstarts are mostly black with orange patches on the sides, wings, and tail. They have a white belly. Females and immature males replace the orange with yellow. They have a gray head and underparts, with an olive back and wings and gray tail.

American Redstarts are incredibly active insect-eaters that seem never to stand still. They quickly spread their cocked tails, exposing the orange or yellow in a quick flash, which often startles insect prey into flushing, where the American Redstart darts after it, trying to catch it in the air.

American Redstarts breed in moist, deciduous woodlands with abundant shrubs, across much of the eastern and northern United States and southern Canada. Its habitat is often situated near water, and includes thickets in treefall gaps within orchards and mixed woodlands. In these woodlands (especially where there is water), there is an abundance of insects.

American Redstarts feed mostly on insects, including flies, moths and their larvae, wasps, and beetles. In summer they also eat some small berries and fruits, such as barberry, serviceberry, and magnolia. They search for food between the ground and near the top of the canopy, taking most of their prey from twigs, branches, and leaves. They fan their tails and droop their wings, showing the orange and black or yellow and gray “flash patterns” of their plumage to startle prey and move it from vegetation. They flycatch more than other warbler species.

Males defend their territory boundaries with songs and aerial displays, including one display in which they fly in circles near each other. Females sometimes defend the territory against other females. Two birds may strike at each other or even grapple with their bills and feet, though they rarely hurt each other.

The female builds the nest by herself in about 3-7 days. The nest is a cup of small fibers, such as grasses, milkweed seed hairs, animal hairs, feathers, leaves, twigs, mosses, and pine needles. The nest measures 2–3 inches across and 2–3 inches high on the outside, with an inner cup about 2 inches across and 1.5 inches deep. They make their nests in trees.

The male American Redstart sometimes has two mates at the same time. While many other bird species involve two females nesting in the same territory, the redstart holds two separate territories that can be separated by a quarter of a mile. The male begins attracting a second female after the first has completed her clutch of eggs and is incubating the eggs.

American Redstart Male
Picture Source: © Evan Lipton 
American Redstart Female
Picture Source: © Jeremiah Trimble

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