American Redstarts

The American Redstart, Setophaga ruticilla, is a migratory, active New World warbler that is unrelated to the Old World redstarts. It is named for the male’s red tail, start being an old word for tail.

Distribution / Range:

American Redstarts breed in North America, across southern Canada and the eastern USA.

They migrate south to winter in Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America (in Venezuela they are called “candelitas”). They are very rare vagrants to western Europe.

Female American Redstart


The American Redstart measures 12 cm long and weighs 8.5 g. The breeding males are unmistakable, jet black above apart from large orange-red patches on their wings and tails. Their breast sides are also orange, with the rest of their underparts colored white.

In their other plumages, American Redstarts display green in their upperparts, along with black central tails and grey heads. The orange patches of the breeding males are replaced by yellow in the plumages of the females and young birds. The tail is often held partly fanned out.

Female American Redstart

American Redstart

Breeding / Nesting

The breeding habitats of these birds are open woodlands or scrub – often located near water.

They neest in a low are of a bush, laying 2-5 eggs in a neat cup-shaped nest.

Diet / Feeding:

American Redstarts mostly feed on insects which are usually caught by flycatching. American Redstarts also have been known to catch their insect prey by picking them from leaves. They have been observed flashing the orange and yellow of their tails, on and off, to startle and chase insects from the underbrush.

Song / Call:

Their songs is described as a series of musical see notes; and their calls as a soft chip.

Photo of author

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