American Redstart

Setophaga ruticilla
American Redstart specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (5 inches) wood warbler, the male American Redstart is most easily identified by its black body, white belly, and conspicuous orange patches on the wings, flanks, and tail. Female American Redstarts are olive-green above and pale below with yellow on the wings, flanks, and tail. In particular, this species’ tail sets it apart from all other North American wood warblers as no other species has such large, brightly-colored tail patches. The American Redstart breeds across southern Canada and much of the United States. While this species is fairly widespread in the northeast and interior south, it is more local elsewhere, and is almost entirely absent as a breeding bird in the desert southwest. Most American Redstarts spend the winter from northern Mexico and the Bahamas south to Brazil, although a few winter in coastal California, along the southern Colorado River, and in south Florida. American Redstarts breed in a number of deciduous forest habitats, particularly those near water. In winter, this species may be found a number of shrubby habitats, such as mangroves, thickets, and tropical forests with dense undergrowth. American Redstarts primarily eat small invertebrates, including insects and spiders. In appropriate habitat, American Redstarts may be observed foraging for food in the forest canopy, where their habit of frequently flashing their bright tails makes them more conspicuous than they might otherwise be. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a high “tsee” repeated three or four times in quick succession. American Redstarts are primarily active during the day, but, like many migratory songbirds, this species migrates at night.

DC Information

Common summer resident and abundant migrant, arriving round mid-April and leaving by mid- to late September. Usually nests in deciduous forests from late April to early July. The male is orange red on the tail, wings, and sides; the female, yellow.

Specimen Information

The bird on the right is a male, with a female on the left.  The bird in the center could be anoher female or juvenile.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31299 Setophaga ruticilla (American Redstart)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31300 Setophaga ruticilla (American Redstart)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31301 Setophaga ruticilla (American Redstart)