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Painted Redstart Life History



During the breeding season, Painted Redstarts primarily inhabit shady forests in the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico, including oak, pine-oak, and oak-juniper habitats with lush undergrowth. They are most consistently present around canyons where there is permanent water such as a stream or creek, but in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona they forage well away from canyons, often on open slopes. Important tree species in Arizona include Emory oak, Arizona white oak, alligator juniper, Chihuahua pine, Apache pine, and Arizona sycamore. During winter, most migrate southward out of the United States, but some linger at lower elevations, usually in riparian woodlands, and migrants often turn up in riparian corridors as well. In Mexico and Central America Painted Redstarts favor similar habitats, including pine-oak-fir forests, but they also nest in more arid oak, pine, and pine-oak woodlands.

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InsectsLike other warblers, Painted Redstarts eat primarily insects. They forage like the American Redstart, hopping along branches, pivoting the body, fanning the tail, and opening the wings to reveal flashes of white that startle insect prey into moving. In shady canyons, this white is particularly eye-catching against their mostly black plumage. They take prey by gleaning or hover-gleaning insects from any part of the tree and also by flycatching insects in the air or picking them off the surface of streams and pools. In spring, Painted Redstarts supplement their diet with sap from deciduous trees. They eat butterflies, moths, caterpillars, flies, cicadas, and leafhoppers. They sometimes visit backyard feeders for sugar water and (in winter) suet. Back to top


Nest Placement

GroundNests are set on the ground on slopes, seldom in trees, usually in sites that provide some cover from above such as in cavities, under bushes, or on the side of a canyon, a creek bed, or even a building.

Nest Description

Nests are substantial cups or oval-shaped bowls made of grass, pine needles, and leaves, lined with fine grasses and hair; many nests have pathways made of oak leaves on the downslope side. Nests average 4 inches across and 2.6 inches tall, with an interior cup about 2 inches across and 1.3 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:3-7 eggs
Egg Description:

White with brown speckles, especially at the larger end.

Condition at Hatching:Helpless with sparse black down.
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Foliage GleanerPainted Redstarts usually breed in pairs, but sometimes a male will breed with two females. Courtship begins when males arrive on territories in spring. They sing as they slowly fan their tails, either on the ground and in flight, usually when in the presence of a female. In the flight display, males leap from a high perch and descend in an arc toward the female, gliding or flying on stiff wings with an open tail, singing as they descend. Males also chase females in flight. A responsive female will often join the male in singing, and the couple will sing back and forth throughout the day. Their singing may continue well into the nesting period, sometimes as a “whisper” song that is barely audible. When males show females prospective nesting sites, they often fan their tail, inviting females to follow. Both sexes participate in nest-site selection, but the female makes the final decision and builds the nest without help. Males stay very near mates through egg-laying, and both sexes share incubation and chick-rearing duties. Back to top


Low Concern

Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 600,000 individuals and rates the species a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of relatively low conservation concern. Habitat loss is the chief threat to populations of this species throughout its range, as the forests they inhabit are often under pressure from development projects and timber industries.

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Barber, David R., Patricia M. Barber and Piotr G. Jablonski. (2000). Painted Redstart (Myioborus pictus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2021.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2021.

Partners in Flight (2019). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2019.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Stephenson, T. and S. Whittle (2013). The Warbler Guide. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

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Learn more at Birds of the World