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American Redstart

Setophaga ruticilla ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A lively warbler that hops among tree branches in search of insects, the male American Redstart is coal-black with vivid orange patches on the sides, wings, and tail. True to its Halloween-themed color scheme, the redstart seems to startle its prey out of the foliage by flashing its strikingly patterned tail and wing feathers. Females and immature males have more subdued yellow “flash patterns” on a gray background. These sweet-singing warblers nest in open woodlands across much of North America.

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Songs

During breeding season the male sings a series of 2–11 thin, high-pitched notes, sometimes ending with an accented phrase. The building energy of the song and the abrupt, accented ending lead some people to describe the song as sneeze-like.

Calls

Both the male and female use a variety of calls in different situations, including sharp, sweet-sounding chip notes, soft tsip calls, and high-pitched alarm calls.

Other Sounds

Males snap bills at each other during territorial conflicts, and females snap their bills at courting males.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

In late summer, redstarts visit plants with small berries and fruits, such as barberry, serviceberry, and magnolia. Planting these in your yard may help attract them.

Find This Bird

In deciduous woodlands, American Redstarts are fairly conspicuous compared to other small birds of the leafy canopy and subcanopy. They are seemingly hyperactive, repeatedly dashing through trees and bushes after unseen insects, or prancing along branches, rapidly spreading and closing its black-and-yellow or black-and-orange tail. Males sing their sweet, explosive songs frequently during spring and early summer. American Redstarts are common spring and fall migrants in the East. It is a later spring migrant (arriving in May in much of the U.S. and Canada) and a mid-season fall migrant (September-early October).